06/18/2011 11:22PM

Charles Town: J P's Gusto relishes cut back in distance for Red Legend

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Mike Montgomery Photo
J P's Gusto, ridden for the first time by J.D. Acosta, finishes far in front in the Red Legend.

J P’s Gusto, cutting back to seven furlongs for the first time since taking the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last September, demonstrated his fondness for the distance when he dominated Saturday night’s $400,000 Red Legend Stakes for 3-year-olds at Charles Town.

Racing in second early behind Penn National shipper Der Meister, J P’s Gusto ($5.40) was sent up by jockey J.D. Acosta to challenge for the lead on the backstretch with about three furlongs remaining, opened up a seven-length lead turning for home,  and cruised across the wire 6 ¾ lengths in front while completing seven furlongs going around two turns in 1:25.03.

It was the best performance by J P’s Gusto since a runner-up finish in the one-mile, Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in February and his first win since the Del Mar Futurity nine months ago.

Now trained by New York-based Mike Hushion, J P’s Gusto had been off since flashing high speed and backing up in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby two months ago.

“We knew what kind of horse he is,” said Hushion's assistant, Juan Vazquez.  “He’s got speed and we knew he could handle it on this racetrack.”

Acosta, a Charles Town jockey, was aboard J P’s Gusto for the first time.

“I knew he likes to be in front,” Acosta said. “I tried to sit right off the 1 [Der Meister] and go by that one. That’s the whole deal with the track here – stay out of trouble with a horse like this and you’ll be good.”

Loranger Native, winner of the seven-furlong Blue and Gold locally in April,  rallied to finish a distant second , nosing out Nacho Saint, a Monmouth Park shipper whose only lifetime win came over Aqueduct’s inner track in January.

Among other notables in the 10-horse field, Little Drama, runner-up in the seven-furlong Swale in April, weakened to drop from second to fourth in the stretch as the 5-2 second choice, and Decisive Moment, making his first start since finishing 14th in the Kentucky Derby, was wide on both turns en route to a sixth-place finish.

The all-stakes pick four paid $2,085.40 for a $2 bet.

* Wink At the Girls ($45.40), the third longest shot on the board, rallied between horses to get up by a half-length in the $100,000 Wild and Wonderful.

Claimed for $40,000 in January by Penn National-based trainer Murray Rojas on behalf of R JG Racing Management, the 6-year-old Wink At the Girls  won an allowance in April before finishing fourth in the six-furlong Changing Times on May 27. He is now 12 for 41 lifetime after completing the seven furlongs in 1:25.21 under jockey Oscar Flores.

Local hero Russell Road, a 16-time winner at Charles Town, had to settle for third at 9-2. Comedero, the winner of last year’s Red Legend, set the pace before fading to sixth as the 3-5 favorite.

* Grand Kisses ($12.20), despite lugging out badly in the stretch, recovered in time to prevail in a three-horse photo to capture the $75,000 Lady Charles Town for 3-year-old fillies.

Based at Penn National, where she was claimed for $15,000 in February by trainer Tim Kreiser, Grand Kisses opened up a four-length lead with a furlong remaining in the 6 ½-furlong race, but gave up almost all of that advantage when she bore out towards the grandstand side of the track. Dana Whitney straightened out Grand Kisses and she held off Moonlit Malibu and Sweet Susan by a neck. Moonlit Malibu and Sweet Susan, both coming off local wins with 90-plus Beyer Speed Figures, finished in a dead heat for second.

Grand Kisses, now 3 for 11 lifetime, ran the distance in 1:19.63.

Kreiser said that Grand Kisses will probably be pointed to the $100,000 Femme Fatale at her home track on July 29.

* Defending champion Immortal Eyes ($3), coming off a near-miss in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap, cruised to an easy 3 1/2-length victory in the $75,000 Charles Town Dash Handicap. The 6-year-old Immortal Eyes, ridden by Travis Dunkelberger for trainer Damon Dilodovico, has now collected 5 wins and a second in 6 starts locally in his career. His winning time of 50.76 seconds for 4 1/2  furlongs was .56 of  a second off the track record of 50.20 set by Outcashem in 2006.

* Aaron’s Way ($4.60) remained undefeated in four starts by cruising to a five-length win in the $51,000 Coin Collector for West Virginia-bred 3-year-olds. It was the second straight stakes victory on the card for jockey Matt McGowan. A 3-year-old colt trained by Christopher Keller, Aaron’s Way completed the 4 ½ furlongs in 52.30 seconds.

* Down Town Allen ($2.80), a four-time stakes winner last season, returned from an eight-month layoff to take the $50,000 Fancy Buckles for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths. A 4-year-old filly ridden by McGowan for trainer John Casey, Down Town Allen ran 4 ½ furlongs in 52.12 seconds.