08/01/2013 1:57PM

Charles Town: Speed duel likely in Leavitt Memorial

Coady Photography
In the Fairway won the Coin Collector Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths at Charles Town in his most recent start June 29.

In the Fairway and Hidden Canyon, who have combined to finish first in 11 of 16 lifetime starts, figure to engage in a head-to-head battle in Saturday night’s $50,000 Robert G. Leavitt Memorial Stakes at Charles Town.

The seven-furlong race for West Virginia-bred 3-year-olds drew a field of seven, but the event boils down to In the Fairway and Hidden Canyon, both of whom prefer to race on the front end.

The only previous meeting between the two local stars is difficult to gauge. In the Fairway defeated Hidden Canyon by 2 1/2 lengths going 4 1/2 furlongs in the Henry Mercer Memorial last September, but Hidden Canyon’s chances were compromised when he stumbled coming out of the gate, and jockey Garry Cruise was forced to steady him at the quarter pole.

In the Fairway, trained by Jeff Runco and owned by Runco’s Coleswood Farm, is 7 for 10 at Charles Town, including wins by wide margins in his last three races. The last time he raced around two turns on Charles Town’s bullring, In the Fairway crushed open-company allowance runners by 9 3/4 lengths and earned a career-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure.

Hidden Canyon’s only defeat on the track came in his troubled trip in the Mercer. But one of his victories, a 6 1/4-length romp in May, was taken away when he was disqualified from the purse money. He came back two months later to score by 7 1/4 lengths against older West Virginia-breds in a 6 1/2-furlong optional claimer that produced a career-high 84 Beyer.

Formerly trained by Javier Contreras, Hidden Canyon will be making his first start since being transferred to the barn of Lee Couchenour. Hidden Canyon has the advantage of breaking from the rail and saving ground under his regular rider, J.D. Acosta. In the Fairway will leave from post 4 with Jose Montano.

If the two logical favorites burn each other out in a duel, Perfect Cross may be the best candidate to pick up the pieces. A deep closer, Perfect Cross has primarily been facing open company. He rallied from 10th to win one of his two races against West Virginia-breds going seven furlongs in mid-June.