10/08/2002 11:00PM

Beware of McCaslin at Charles Town


This Saturday is the biggest weekend of racing on Charles Town's calendar. The West Virginia track plays host to the 16th West Virginia Breeders' Classic, a series of races highlighted by the $250,000 Classic at 1 1/8 miles.

To whet the appetites of fans, Charles Town will serve a trio of $50,000 stakes at widely diverse distances on Friday night's card.

In order of length, there's the Governor's Cup for older sprinters at 4 1/2 furlongs; the City of Ranson Handicap for older horses at seven furlongs; and the City of Charles Town Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles.

Philadelphia Park-based trainer John McCaslin has entered four horses in the three stakes and handicappers would be wise to consider each one as contender. McCaslin, whose horses are winning at a 26 percent clip this year, has shipped only three other runners to Charles Town this year. Two of them won, including Sheryar Special in a stakes on July 4.

In the City of Ranson, 6-year-old Night Caller seeks his third straight stakes victory for McCaslin at his third different track. One of those wins came at seven furlongs and was worth a career-best 99 Beyer.

Night Caller's main competition looks like Maryland shipper Saratoga Games. The 4-year-old Saratoga Games, from the barn of high-percentage trainer Anthony Dutrow, hasn't raced since mid-March and hasn't sprinted since April 2001. Based on Dutrow's reputation for having horses ready off long layoffs and Saratoga Games's consistency against stakes competition, he must be considered dangerous.

McCaslin has entered Run for Joy and Annatoga in the nine-furlong City of Charles Town, but because he has named Joe Rocco Sr. on both horses, one will likely be scratched. Run for Joy, a 6-year-old mare, is the more accomplished part of the entry. She is 6 for 11 for the year, but comes off a string of three consecutive second-place finishes in stakes.

Based on recent form, 3-year-old filly Tamayo could be the horse to beat. She is coming off a second-place finish in the Maryland Million Oaks and will be ridden for the first time by red-hot apprentice Ryan Fogelsonger.

McCaslin's fourth horse, Copelan's Number, is among three of the top four finishers from the recent five-furlong William Livingston at The Meadowlands entered in the Governor's Cup. Copelan's Number, who has 14 lifetime wins but is 0 for 6 this year, finished fourth in the Livingston, but was beaten only a half-length.

Ghostly Numbers, winner of three straight races, and short-sprint specialist Rudirudy finished a neck apart in the Livingston.

Periscope looks like the horse for the course in the Governor's Cup. He has five wins and two seconds in seven starts at Charles Town, all at 4 1/2 furlongs.