09/17/2009 12:00AM

Casey runners prep for Classics


Trainer Jim Casey has two serious contenders in Russell Road and Natures Annuity for the $500,000 West Virginia Breeders Classics on Oct. 17 at Charles Town.

Both get their final preps Saturday night in a pair of $50,000 seven-furlong races for West Virginia-breds.

Russell Road is an absolute standout in the Millard Harrell Memorial for 3-year-olds. The gelding was a dominant winner against statebreds in his last two outings, posting Beyer Speed Figures of 88 and 90 that dwarf the competition.

He hasn't done badly against open competition this season, winning an overnight stakes at Laurel, finishing fifth to I Want Revenge in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct, and rallying to get third behind Big Drama in Charles Town's Red Legend Stakes. He is 8-1-1 in 10 starts here.

Casey also entered In the Bubbles and Joyful Kiss in the Harrell but plans to run only Russell Road unless the field scratches down to a handful of runners.

"He's doing really well, but the big race comes up in a month," Casey said. "That's the one we've been pointing for the last three months. Anything can happen in a horse race, but he should be a strong favorite in here. He's at the top of his game right now."

Natures Annuity is Carey's prospect for the filly and mare Classic division. She will tune up in the Roger Van Hoozer Memorial, only her third start of the season.

"She has an ankle that has bothered a little bit," Casey said. "We've kind of taken it easy on her. We hadn't done enough going into the last race to get her real competitive. I look forward to her running better this time."