04/19/2010 12:00AM

A 108 Beyer. Next up: Steeplechase.


Researcher achieved millionaire status and matched his career-best Beyer Speed Figure with a 108 for winning the for the second consecutive year last Saturday night. As a 6-year-old gelding, he can only continue to race. But his new owners intend to point him in a new direction.

The Kinross Corporation, owned by Zohar Ben-Dov, is best known in racing for its success on the steeplechase circuit. By this fall, Researcher could switch to jumping.

"He's exactly what a steeplechase outfit like us would be looking for," said Neil Morris, trainer and farm manager for Kinross. "I think there will be one or two more races on the flat through the spring with the thought of going over hurdles in the fall. He will go back to the farm and he was bought with steeplechasing in mind."

Before his days racing on the flat are over, Researcher could take a second crack at the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in June. Researcher finished seventh in last year's Foster, but was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths.

"There is some talk of the Foster," Morris said. "We will see."

Kinross purchased Researcher for an undisclosed sum from the estate of Hermen Greenberg, the founder of Rutledge Farm, just five days before the Charles Town Classic. Both Kinross Farm and Rutledge Farm are located in Middleburg, Va., and the two have a historical link.

In 2001, Kinross paid $10,000 for an unraced 3-year-old owned by Rutledge. That horse, Tur La Tete, went on to win nine steeplechase races, including six Grade 1 events, and earn $664,050 to rank fourth all-time among National Steeplechase Association jumpers.

Researcher has now won 13 of 26 starts and $1,400,129. His 108 Beyer matched the career high he posted winning last fall's HBPA Governor's Cup at Charles Town. Researcher completed the 1 1/8 miles of the Classic in 1:49.94, just .18 of a second off the track record he set in the local prep for the 2009 Classic.

* Charles Town set track records for total handle and single-race handle on Saturday's card. A total of $2,584,876 was wagered on the 11-race card, including a single-race record of $648,005 on the Classic.

* Charles Town officials are hopeful that the North American Graded Stakes Committee will make the Classic a graded race when it becomes eligible for the first time next year.

"We've had 100 percent of our gate occupied with more than two-thirds of the starters being graded winners," said Erich Zimny, director of racing operations at Charles Town. "If you look at the quality points our race has already earned, it's placed squarely in line with Grade 2's, so we're very hopeful."

Should the 2011 Charles Town Classic earn graded status, it would become the first graded race in the 76-year history of the track.