09/15/2009 11:00PM

Class may take backseat to form in Hilton


Three former winners of the rich West Virginia Breeders Classic will tune up for a possible return to that $500,000 race, scheduled for Oct. 23, in Friday night's Robert Hilton Memorial Stakes at Charles Town.

The Hilton lineup includes defending Classic champion Ghostly Thunder and the 2007 winner, Eastern Delite. But the seven-furlong Hilton might be a most critical test for the popular 11-year-old gelding Confucius Say.

A winner of the 1 1/8-mile Classic in 2001 and 2002, plus the seven-furlong Onion Juice in 2006, Confucius Say was fourth, beaten more than 10 lengths, in trying to become the first horse to win the Classic for a third time last October. In his lone start since then, Confucius Say was a distant fifth, beating only one horse, in an open allowance race on Aug. 1. The 69 Beyer Speed Figure was Confucius Say's worst since he got a 67 backing up to fifth in the 2007 Lil Abner.

The Hilton may determine whether Confucius Say, a winner of 18 races and $910,018, still can be a force in the West Virginia-bred stakes ranks or if it's time to consider putting him out to pasture.

Neither Ghostly Thunder nor Eastern Delite has been in good recent form either.

The 4-year-old Ghostly Thunder, coming off a 6-for-9 campaign last year, is 0 for 2 this season and was a dull fifth in his most recent start on Sept. 7.

Eastern Delite is only 1 for 13 the past two years and was beaten more than nine lengths last time out.

The best last-race Beyer in the Hilton belongs to the 4-year-old Darth Tater. Making his first start since June, Darth Tater improved 35 points on the Beyer scale while romping to a 6 3/4-length win against high-priced optional claimers, earning a career-best 98 Beyer.

The field also includes Punk Robinson, who upset last year's $112,000 Onion Juice at 36-1 but is winless in seven starts since then, and Gold Standard, whose 8-for-16 record locally includes a win in the 2007 running of the West Virginia Lottery and a second last time out in the seven-furlong Frank Gall Memorial.