10/02/2009 11:00PM

Encaustic punches in again

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Mark Shuman prefers to run Encaustic rather than train him, and that seems to suit the 5-year-old just fine. So it's back to the races Tuesday night for Encaustic, who makes his 12th start of the year in the $75,000 Fall Stakes at Mountaineer Racetrack.

"He's done everything right and the owners put no pressure on me to run," Shuman said. "If it's either breeze him or run him, I'd just as soon run him. Rather than work him, I'd rather give him a race and get paid for it. He seems to be handling it just fine. We just keep him happy and run him again. He keeps telling us he's ready to do it again, so we'll give him another shot."

Encaustic faces six rivals, including defending champion Rikman, in the 1 1/8-mile race.

Despite the heavy workload, Encaustic seems as sharp now as at any point in the campaign. The Fall Stakes will be his third start in less than a month, a stretch that started at Mountaineer with a front-running win in the off-the-turf Labor Day Stakes. He held off Cryptolight by three-quarters of a length in that race, run in the mud. Next stop was Monmouth Park, and a tough-luck loss in the Formal Gold Stakes on Sept. 19.

Now it's back to Mountaineer, where Encaustic has a win and a second in two tries on the main track.

"He's going really good," Shuman said. "He's jumping out of his skin. Fast or sloppy, I think he'll be comfortable on it."

The only question could be distance, because Encaustic rarely ventures beyond 1 1/16 miles. Shuman hopes pedigree carries the day. Encaustic is a full brother to Pimlico Special and Massachusetts Cap winner Include.

"A mile and an eighth never bothered Include," Shuman said. "It might not have been enough."

Rikman drew off to a four-length win as the 7-5 favorite in last year's Fall Stakes. Now 7, Rikman has been running for a claiming tag recently. He rolled to a commanding win in a $40,000 claimer at Monmouth and most recently was second in an optional claimer at Saratoga.

Cryptolight finished second to Encaustic in the Labor Day Stakes, extending his streak of in-the-money finishes to five.

Marble Cliff will try for his first official stakes win. He was disqualified from five starts, including Ohio-bred stakes victories at Beulah Park and Thistledown, when it was discovered he wasn't Ohio registered.