05/15/2008 12:00AM

Invader takes on Mountaineer hero Bernie Blue


Few horses have a better record than Bernie Blue at Mountaineer Racetrack, where the 6-year-old gelding has 9 wins and 8 seconds in 20 starts, including 4 stakes wins last season.

But considering that Reigning Court has been perfect in two previous road trips to West Virginia, he might deserve to be favored over Bernie Blue when the two consistent older sprinters clash in Saturday night's $75,000 Waterford Park Handicap at six furlongs.

Based at Turfway Park with trainer Scott Sowle, the 5-year-old Reigning Court has raced on synthetic surfaces in 6 of his last 9 starts. Since last November, however, he is 3 for 3 on dirt, including a wire-to-wire score in his first start of 2008, a six-furlong allowance at Mountaineer on April 1.

That race, which was worth a Beyer Speed Figure of 95, looks even better since the runner-up, Cognac Kisses, came back to finish second with a 96 Beyer in a stakes at Pimlico, and the third-place finisher, BB Mancini, earned a 98 Beyer for his 2 1/4-length win over $75,000 claimers at Churchill Downs a week ago.

Cognac Kisses is also in the Waterford Park lineup, but although he comes from the high-percentage barn of Scott Lake, the trainer is 0 for 6 shipping into Mountaineer the past three years.

Bernie Blue, the beaten even-money favorite in the five-furlong Panhandle Handicap two weeks ago, may be tighter for the second start of his current form cycle. His trainer, Miguel Feliciano, is 6 for 40 with male sprinters making their second start following a layoff. That includes 1 win and 2 seconds in 4 starts by Bernie Blue.

Feliciano is 13 for 79 (16 percent) with male sprinters coming back in 14 days or less. Bernie Blue's record in that category is 2-1-1 from 9 starts.