08/18/2011 12:36PM

Charles Town: Russell Road, Son of a Bear prep in Frank Gall


Russell Road and Son of a Bear both won six-figure stakes on the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics program two years ago, and they will try to earn themselves another shot at glory on Breeders’ Classics night when they clash in Saturday night’s $50,000 Frank Gall Memorial Stakes at Charles Town.

The seven-furlong Gall is a local prep for statebred horses pointing to either the featured 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Breeders’ Classic or the seven-furlong Onion Juice on Oct. 15.

The 5-year-old Russell Road, who won the $500,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic as a 3-year-old during a season in which he won seven stakes and nearly $500,000, will attempt to make amends for his sixth-place finish as the 1-10 favorite in last year’s Gall. Russell Road is 2 for 4 this season, including a half-length win over Son of a Bear in the seven-furlong Confucius Say over a sloppy track in April. Most recently, he rallied to get second facing open company in the $75,000 Dale Baird Memorial at Mountaineer.

“His 3-year-old year was absolutely sensational,” owner Mark Russell said. “He fought a lung infection for a while last year and, knock on wood, we haven’t had the problem this year.

“He seems to be coming into the race very good. He ran a credible race in his last start at Mountaineer and made a big run down the lane, but shortening up to 5 1/2 furlongs there, he just couldn’t get the winner. We gave him a short freshening at the farm and he’s been training well for this spot.”

The 4-year-old Son of a Bear, who captured the Vince Moscarelli Memorial Breeders’ Classic and the Tri-State Futurity in back-to-back starts as a 2-year-old, broke an eight-race losing streak last month when he came from off the pace to defeat open company in an allowance.

Son of a Bear’s trainer, Debra Ketterman, said she sees a different horse than the one who lost his last four starts in 2010 and his first four this season.

“We were dealing with a quarter crack that had been bothering him and we feel like we’ve got that taken care of,” Ketterman said. “He’s on the top of his game right now. We are very optimistic coming into the race on Saturday.”

The seven-horse field also includes last year’s Gall winner, Black Belt, who is out to snap a nine-racing losing streak. The 4-year-old Black Belt, third in last fall’s $450,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic, returns to dirt after four straight races on synthetic surfaces at Presque Isle Downs and Arlington Park.

◗ Pending final approval from the West Virginia Racing Commission, purses for the 25th annual West Virginia Breeders’ Classics program on Oct. 15 will total $1.345 million for nine stakes, an increase of $70,000 from last year but still below the $2 million that was distributed in 2009.

In addition to the $500,000 Breeders’ Classic, the card will be supported by the $250,000 Cavada and seven additional stakes worth $85,000 apiece.