11/08/2009 1:00AM

Encaustic confirms love of Mountaineer


Although Encaustic is based in Maryland and has raced at seven different venues already this season, the 5-year-old has displayed a special fondness for Mountaineer Racetrack.

Shipped to West Virginia by trainer Mark Shuman for the fourth time since August, Encaustic responded with the biggest victory of his 37-race career when he upset defending champion Researcher in Saturday night's $125,000 Mountaineer Mile.

In his other starts locally, Encaustic ($17.20) won the $75,000 Labor Day and finished second in the $125,000 West Virginia Governor's and the $75,000 Fall Stakes. In contrast, he is just 1 for 14 with two second-place finishes elsewhere over the past two seasons.

In the Mountaineer Mile, Encaustic and jockey Ricardo Feliciano engaged the pacesetter, the 22-1 longshot Sea Dubai, and the pair were heads apart after six furlongs in 1:12.67. Encaustic took the lead in the upper stretch and drew clear by three lengths despite drifting out in deep stretch and completed the mile on a fast track in 1:38.56.

Researcher, eighth after the first half-mile went in 48.40 seconds, made a four-wide move into the stretch and got within a half-length of Encaustic with a furlong remaining before drifting in late. Sent off as the 6-5 favorite on the basis of his 14-length romp in the HBPA Governor's Cup at Charles Town, Researcher held second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Cryptolight. Congressional Page, who came into the race with a 5-for-5 record, finished a neck behind Cryptolight as the 2-1 second choice.