06/17/2010 12:00AM

Comedero has stiff competition


Comedero, one of the nation's leading 3-year-old sprinters, faces a challenge from two horses coming out of Triple Crown series races in Saturday night's $400,000 Red Legend Stakes at Charles Town.

The Red Legend, a seven-furlong race that is the richest sprint for 3-year-olds in the country, is the feature among six stakes on the third annual Charles Town Sprint Festival card.

Comedero, unbeaten in seven starts at seven furlongs or less, comes into the Red Legend after winning the Grade 3 Chick Lang at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard. He has already shown an affinity for going two turns at Charles Town by dominating the seven-furlong, $100,000 Blue and Gold Stakes in April.

"We went there for the $100,000 [race] back in April to see if he'd handle the turns and the track," trainer Mike Stidham said. "When we saw that he could, the Red Legend was an obvious spot."

The main competition for Comedero among six rivals figures to come from Backtalk, a multiple graded stakes winner who cuts back to a sprint after finishing last of 20 in the Kentucky Derby, and Northern Giant, who hit the board twice in graded stakes this spring before finishing last of 12 in the Preakness.

As a 2-year-old, Backtalk won the Grade 3 Bashford Manor and the Grade 2 Sanford. Trainer Tom Amoss said he is hopeful cutting back in distance will enable Backtalk to regain his form.

"The Kentucky Derby, being a mile and a quarter, probably isn't his game," Amoss said. "We're fully aware of how good Comedero is, but we freshened him after the Derby and hope he'll be sharp enough on Saturday."

Northern Giant, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, showed promise early this year, finishing second in the Grade 2 Lane's End and third in the Grade 3 Risen Star before disappointing efforts in the Arkansas Derby and Preakness. The cutback to seven furlongs will be Northern Giant's first start at less than a mile since October of his 2-year-old season.

"He's been going up against some of the best out there," Lukas said. "We wanted two turns and hopefully a little softer spot for him. I gave him a little freshening after the Preakness. He should be good to go."

The field also includes Working Capital, a Southern California shipper who finished second in the $200,000 Snow Chief in his only previous stakes appearance.

* Defending champion Trust or Bust and the razor-sharp turf sprinter Central City head a group of 10 older sprinters in the $100,000 Charles Town Invitational Dash Handicap (race 8).

Trust or Bust lost six subsequent starts following his 2 1/2-length score in last year's 4 1/2-furlong Dash, but is back in good form after earning a 99 Beyer Speed Figure for a wire-to-wire victory going five furlongs at Delaware Park in early May.

The 4-year-old Central City returns to the main track following a neck loss in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs and a win in the $52,000 Turf Sprint on the Black-Eyed Susan undercard at Pimlico. He has won his last two starts on dirt.

* Seven-furlong specialist Russell Road, who is 9 for 10 at the distance at his home track, is the logical choice in the $100,000 Wild and Wonderful (race 9). His rivals include last year's winner, No Advantage, who would be coming back just seven days after finishing last of 11 in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.

* Down Town Allen, a five-time stakes winner, moves up to face open company in the $100,000 Lady Charles Town for 3-year-old fillies (race 7). In her lone start this season, Down Town Allen cruised by 5 1/2 lengths going the same 4 1/2 furlongs as the Lady Charles Town.

Kinsolving, who beat Down Town Allen when they met in last August's Miss Shenandoah but is winless in four starts since then, ships in from Kentucky for trainer Steve Asmussen.

* Come Here Oonga, a winner of back-to-back races going two turns against open company, cuts back to 4 1/2 furlongs for the $50,000 Fancy Buckles (race 6), a race restricted to West Virginia-bred fillies and mares.

* Taylor's Flight, unbeaten in three starts, heads a group of six West Virginia-bred 3-year-olds going 4 1/2 furlongs in the $50,000 Coin Collector (race 3).