10/18/2012 12:55PM

Charles Town: Russell Road shooting for third Breeders’ Classic win

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Mike Montgomery
Russell Road, with Luis Perez riding, wins the Confucius Say.

Russell Road’s name was conspicuous by its absence from last month’s Roger Ramey Handicap, the final local prep for the $500,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic at Charles Town. Whether the two-month layoff will hinder Russell Road in his bid to become only the second horse to win the richest race for West Virginia-breds for a third time won’t be known until the 1 1/8-mile race is contested on Saturday night.

The Classic goes as race 8 at 10:45 p.m. Eastern on the 26th annual West Virginia Breeders’ Classic program for West Virginia-breds. The all-stakes nine-race card is worth a collective $1.3 million.

Trainer James W. Casey said that the 6-year-old Russell Road was bothered by minor ailments that cropped up following his 3 1/4-length win in the seven-furlong Frank Gall Memorial on Aug. 18. That prevented him from getting a tune-up in the Sept. 22 Ramey. Casey doesn’t feel the lack of a prep will hurt his star, who has won 22 of 36 starts and $1.2 million.

“We were debating racing in the prep anyhow,” said Casey. “We wanted to race him lightly. We wanted one prep, and then run here, but we were pointing to this race most importantly.”

In four previous tries coming off similar layoffs of longer than 61 days, Russell Road has won just once. Casey said he is confident Russell Road, winner of the Classic in 2009 and last year, is primed for a big effort.

“I believe he’s at top of his game,” Casey said. “I believe he is training and running better than he ever has before.”

The only other three-time winner of the Classic is Taylor Mountain (1988-1990).

The prime challenger to Russell Road may be Lucy’s Bob Boy, whose connections chose to run in the Classic rather than an easier spot for $85,000 in the West Virginia Lottery for fellow 3-year-olds.

“I think we have the best 3-year-old, and it is time to prove it,” said trainer Sandra Dono. “We gradually brought him to this point with a purpose.”

Lucy’s Bob Boy has won five straight, capped by a five-length score in the Ramey that was worth a career-best 85 Beyer Speed Figure. The Classic will be the first start for Lucy’s Bob Boy beyond seven furlongs.

“This may be the only thing we have against us,” Dono said. “We have to prove ourself, but he is bred to go long.”