06/16/2011 1:55PM

Charles Town: J P's Gusto cuts back in Red Legend


J P’s Gusto has yet to show he can run as well on dirt as he did on synthetic surfaces in California last year, when he won three graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and finished second in two other Grade 1 races.

Now with his second trainer since Gem Inc. owner John Waken transferred him from David Hofmans’s barn in California, J P’s Gusto will try to regain his best form when he switches to a more favorable distance for Saturday night’s $400,000 Red Legend Stakes at Charles Town.

The richest race in the country for 3-year-old sprinters, the Red Legend is run at seven furlongs and caps a Sprint Festival card that features five other stakes. As the final leg of an all-stakes pick four, the Red Legend is race 10 with post time of 10:30 p.m.

After establishing himself as the top 2-year-old on the West Coast, J P’s Gusto was pointed to the Triple Crown trail this spring and sent to Joe Petalino at Oaklawn. An encouraging second in the Grade 3 Southwest was followed by dull efforts in the Grade 2 Rebel and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.

His newest trainer, Mike Hushion, said he is making an educated guess that J P’s Gusto will like the distance of the Red Legend.

“I haven’t had the horse long enough to say for sure if he’s better sprinting or going long,” Hushion said. “But going off of his past performances, watching replays of his races, and from a handicapping perspective, it seems like he’s best at seven-eighths or a mile.”

Hushion plans on using Saturday's race at Charles Town as a stepping-stone to the seven-furlong, Grade 1 Kings Bishop run later this summer on Travers Day at Saratoga.

"That's the plan," said Hushion. "The King's Bishop is the goal with this horse for sure."

Much like J P’s Gusto, Decisive Moment is shortening in distance following a series of Triple Crown-related routes, including a second in the Grade 3 Vinery Spiral on Turfway Park’s Polytrack, where he was beaten 2 1/2 lengths by eventual Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Decisive Moment came back in the Derby and finished 14th.

“His race against Animal Kingdom just gave me all the confidence in the world in my horse,” Florida based trainer Juan Arias said. “The pace was unreal that day, and he put all the other pace horses away. He just got caught in the stretch.”

With three furlongs to run in the Derby, Decisive Moment sat just two lengths off the lead as the field was ready to turn for home. Although it may have appeared he was in good position, Arias knew otherwise.

“He’s a real free running kind of horse,” Arias said. “He likes to run in the open, outside of horses. At Churchill, he was tucked inside on the rail, which was pretty deep, and he got crowded pretty good. It was a tough spot for him to be in.”

Despite Decisive Moment's 14th-place performance in Louisville, Arias is brimming with confidence for the Red Legend, which he feels is a more favorable distance for his horse.

“On dirt, I think that seven furlongs, and maybe up to a mile, is his best distance," Arias said. "It should suit him well in this race.”

Decisive Moment should find the configuration of Charles Town’s six-furlong track to his liking as he sports two strong efforts over the Delta Downs bullring with a second-place finish in last year’s Grade 3 Delta Jackpot and a win in the $250,000 Jean Lafitte.

Little Drama wound up in the Red Legend after he was scratched from last weekend’s Grade 2 Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Trainer David Fawkes said he did not want to run Little Drama on a wet, muddy track. A half-brother to 2009 Red Legend winner Big Drama, Little Drama was a close third in the seven-furlong, Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream Park in early April and won the seven-furlong Philmont at Parx last time out,

“He ran once in the slop, and his race was horrible, so we decided to point here,” Fawkes said.

The 10-horse field also includes Loranger Native, winner of the $100,000 Blue and Gold over a sloppy Charles Town track in April; Yankee Passion, a Larry Jones colt who makes his first start since finishing midpack in his stakes debut in February’s Southwest at Oaklawn; and Black N Beauty, a Dale Romans-trained horse who was within a head of the lead after seven furlongs of the one-mile, Grade 3 Holy Bull in January.

In the other stakes on the card:

◗ Comedero returns to Charles Town in search of his third straight sprint stakes win this season in the $100,000 Wild and Wonderful at seven furlongs. Winner of last year’s Red Legend, he is 2 for 2 in stakes at Charles Town. His nine rivals include Russell Road, a locally based horse who is 11 for 14 at the distance and was third, beaten a half-length, in last year’s Wild and Wonderful.

◗ Moonlit Malibu, Sweet Susan, and Dream face off in the $75,000 Lady Charles Town for 3-year-old fillies going 6 1/2 furlongs. Moonlit Malibu soared 46 points, to a 98 Beyer Speed Figure, making her first start at Charles Town a month ago. Sweet Susan finished ahead of Moonlit Malibu in April and won her Charles Town debut with a 92 Beyer. Dream was the third-place finisher from the Grade 3 Cicada in New York.

◗ Defending champion and track record holder Immortal Eyes looks solid coming off a neck loss in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap on Preakness Day in the $75,000 Charles Town Dash at 4 1/2 furlongs.

◗ Aaron’s Way, unbeaten in three starts, faces Banxiousfornothing, the winner of last year’s West Virginia Futurity, in the $50,000 Coin Collector for West Virginia-bred 3-year-olds going 4 1/2 furlongs. Banxiousfornothing has been idle since New Year’s Eve.

◗ Down Town Allen, last year’s leading West Virginia-bred 3-year-old filly with four stakes wins, meets the back-class 5-year-old mare Beware of the Bop, who won 10 of 13 starts between April 2009 and April 2010 before heading to the sidelines with an injury, in the $50,000 Fancy Buckles for statebred fillies and mares going 4 1/2 furlongs.