10/15/2011 10:44PM

Charles Town: Russell Road collects second West Virginia Breeders' Classic win

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Mike Montgomery Photo
Russell Road, ridden by Luis Perez, wins the $500,000 West Virginia Breeders' Classic for the second time in the past three runnings.

Russell Road disappointed his many backers who made him the 1-10 favorite in last year’s West Virginia Breeders’ Classic by finishing fourth. But he made amends for that flop Saturday night with a powerful performance in the 25th running of the richest race for West Virginia-breds at Charles Town.

Jockey Luis Perez, riding Russell Road for just the second time, guided the 5-year-old to a  two-length victory in the $500,000 Classic, a race that he also won as a 3-year-old in 2009.

In completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.51, Russell Road ($4.40) improved his record to 19 for 31 overall and surpassed $1 million in earnings for owner Mark Russell and trainer James W. Casey. It also proved that he’s quite capable of handling nine furlongs, despite back-to-back losses at the distance in the 2010 Classic and the A Huevo a month later. He prepped for this year’s race by winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance in mid-September.

“What a thrill it is to win this a second time after last year’s letdown," owner Russell said. "We’ve worked so hard with this horse and I feel so good for everyone involved.”

Perez said he wanted Russell Road to be in the clear in case Plantation, the pacesetter, tired the same way he did in the allowance prep for the Classic a month ago.

“I wasn’t as close early on as I wanted to," Perez said. "I saw Travis [Dunkelberger] and his horse [Plantation] ahead and knew he stopped his last race and I thought he might stop again. I got him going six-wide because I know that’s where he likes to be.  I asked him and he picked it up. I looked back and didn’t see anyone coming, so I eased up on him.”

The one sad part to the saga of Russell Road was the unexpected death of his dam, the prolific West Virginia broodmare Roberta Gump, just two weeks ago.

“She colicked up and we got her over into surgery," said Robert Lloyd, the breeder of Russell Road. "She made it through post-op but just couldn’t overcome everything. She battled like she always did. I have no regrets at all. I only remember the good times with her and it was a great ride.“

Black Belt, third in this race a year ago, this time got second by a neck over Plantation. Sea Rescue, last year's upset winner of the Classic, never threatened and finished fifth. Ghostly Thunder, the 2008 Classic champion, finished ninth at 80-1.

Silver Heart captures Cavada

Silver Heart turned out to be a capable substitute for her younger sibling in the $250,000 Cavada for fillies and mares..

A deep closer who finished third behind half-sister Aspenglow in last year’s Cavada, the 6-year-old Silver Heart ($3.60) became the sole hope for owner Nancy Terhune and trainer Gary Capuano when Aspenglow’s form soured and she was deemed unfit to defend her title.

Thanks to an extremely hot early pace duel between Down Town Allen and Come Here Oonga, Silver Heart and jockey Travis Dunkelberger were able to close from last to first.

Come Here Oonga was the first to fold, pulling up prior to the final turn of the two-turn race. That left Down Town Allen with a clear lead heading for home, but the fractions of 23.37 seconds, 47.38, and 1:13.95 took a toll and Down Town Allen faded badly and wound up sixth.

Silver Heart, coming off a near-miss in the Maryland Million Distaff two weeks ago, finished fastest of all to prevail by a length over 21-1 longshot Stowe White. Natures Annuity got third by a neck over Lil Miss Jane.

In winning for the 11th time in 27 starts overall, Silver Heart completed seven furlongs in 1:27.74.

* Princess Cecilia ($6.20), rebounding from a last-place finish in the Charles Town Oaks, defeated 7-5 favorite Blushing B.J. by two lengths in the $76,500 West Virginia Division of Tourism for 3-year-old fillies.

* Pagan Cat ($40.40) ended a 22-race losing streak when he got up by a neck over Rummy’s Command in the $76,500 Onion Juice at seven furlongs. The 5-year-old Pagan Cat, who won the Breeders’ Classic Vincent Moscarelli as a 2-year-old in 2008, had not won a race since May 2009.

*Golden Set ($5.20) improved to 5-for-9 lifetime with a 2 1/4-length victory in the $76,500 West Virginia Lottery for 3-year-olds.

* All Myself ($40), winless in his last 11 starts, ran down pacesetter Speedy Sammy, a 26-1 longshot, to prevail by a half-length in the $76,500 Dash for Cash at 4 ½ furlongs.

* Paco Smart ($7), stretching out beyond 4 ½ furlongs for the first time, cruised to a 5 ¾-length victory in the $76,500 Vincent Moscarelli Memorial for 2-year-olds.

* Navy Chapel ($2.20) remained undefeated in three starts with a 4 3/4-length win in the $76,500 Triple Crown Nutrition for 2-year-old fillies.

* Beware of the Bop ($4.40) improved to 13 for 27 lifetime by winning the $76,500 Distaff at 1 1/8 miles.