08/01/2007 11:00PM

Bernie Blue looks too sharp for He's Got Grit


At 4 1/2 furlongs, the West Virginia Legislature Chairman's Cup is the shortest of the nine stakes on Saturday's special afternoon program at Mountaineer Race Track. The $85,000 purse is among the smallest of the eight undercard stakes on the West Virginia Derby card.

Yet, the ultra-short sprint, which goes as race 2, might pose the day's most intriguing head-to-head showdown, between Bernie Blue, the hottest horse on the grounds, and graded stakes winner He's Got Grit.

Although he is based at Thistledown with trainer Miguel Feliciano, the 5-year-old Bernie Blue has made his last four starts at Mountaineer at distances ranging from five furlongs to a mile and 70 yards. Bernie Blue has strung together three consecutive triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures while winning the Slipton Fell Handicap around two turns and the six-furlong Mountain State, and just missing in the six-furlong Waterford Park Handicap.

As the 121-pound highweight, Bernie Blue must concede between three and 17 pounds to his 11 opponents.

Among the lightweights at 109 pounds is the speedy He's Got Grit. A winner of the Grade 3 Sapling at Monmouth Park as a 2-year-old, He's Got Grit is 5 for 7 on fast tracks and has been in front at the first and second calls in all but one of his eight starts.

Now 4, He's Got Grit has been training over the Polytrack at Arlington Park for his first start since last August.

How will He's Got Grit run after being unraced for so long? Since 2005, his trainer, Steve Asmussen, is 0 for 17 with stakes sprinters returning from layoffs of more than 120 days.

In the other seven undercard stakes:

* Miss Belga Bound returns to Mountaineer for the first time in two years for the $125,000 West Virginia Senate President's Breeders' Cup, a mile and 70-yard turf race for fillies and mares.

The 6-year-old Miss Belga Bound, based at Fair Hill with trainer Michael Matz, is only 1 for 8 the past two years, but has four Beyers between 85 and 92 since February, and they make her dangerous in this spot.

Water Gap may be a vulnerable favorite. A

7-year-old, she comes off a win locally in the Firecracker, ending an 18-race losing streak

on grass that began after a turf win in September 2004.

* The Student, a two-time stakes winner in 2006 for trainer Scott Lake, should be primed for a peak effort when he makes his second start following an extended layoff in the $125,000 Harvey Arneault Memorial BC at six furlongs.

The Student's main rival is Forest Park, a front-runner who is 12 for 24 lifetime. Delaware Park-based trainer Mike Pino said he is somewhat concerned that Forest Park may be susceptible to a bounce after running a big race following a two-month layoff. But Pino said the Arneault's purse makes the risk worthwhile and he's leaning toward running in this spot rather than the Chesapeake at Colonial Downs for half as much money.

Also dangerous is De Brandon Boy, a 3-year-old who crushed a field of maidens, earning a 98 Beyer, in his first start locally after making his first five starts in Southern California.

* Come On Chas switches from turf to dirt - a high-percentage angle for trainer Merrill Scherer - for the $125,000 West Virginia Governor's at 1 1/16 miles.

The 5-year-old Come On Chas is 2 for 3 at Mountaineer, including his career-best 97 Beyer earned on an off track. On dirt tracks rated fast, however, Come On Chas is just 2 for 21 lifetime.

The 8-year-old M B Sea was a close second to Bernie Blue two starts ago with a 98 Beyer that would probably be good enough to win this race, but he is a deep closer who needs a fast pace to do his best and is 0 for 11 the past two seasons.

* Country Diva, first or second in 6 of her 7 starts at Mountaineer, returns to her favorite track for the $85,000 West Virginia Secretary of State at six furlongs.

* In the $85,000 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker's Cup at a mile and 70 yards on turf, the front-running Cherokee Prince, coming off a win in the one-mile Independence Day, will be tested by Memorial Day Handicap winner Puppeteer and Buckeye Buddy, who was third in this stakes last year.

* Judging by Beyer Figures, the three fastest 2-year-olds in the $85,000 Mountaineer Juvenile at six furlongs are Robbing the Bank, second in the Prairie Gold Juvenile at Prairie Meadows; Crackalackin, third in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs; and Luvandgo, nosed out in a rapidly run maiden race at Churchill.

* Elocution, who flopped on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park as the 6-5 favorite in the $111,000 Landaluce after posting a big Beyer in a first-level allowance at Churchill, looks like the fastest filly in the $85,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies at six furlongs.