10/14/2014 10:20AM

Jerardi: Veterans Russell Road, Roadhog seeking breeding-showcase hat tricks

Coady Photography
Russell Road (outside) wins the 2013 Independence Day Stakes at Mountaineer.

Add up the ages of the two “Road” horses who will be on display Saturday in breeding showcase days in West Virginia and Maryland, and you get 15. Add up the money that the West Virginia-bred Russell Road and the Maryland-sired Roadhog have made, and you get almost $2.3 million. Add up the wins, and you get 37.

On Saturday night at Charles Town, Russell Road, 8, will go for win No. 3 in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic, a race he won by eight lengths in his first try way back in 2009. After finishing fourth in 2010, Russell Road won again in 2011 before finishing second the past two years.

Among West Virginia-breds, only Soul of the Matter (four graded stakes wins, including the Super Derby when it was still a Grade 1 and that memorable second to Cigar in the 1996 Dubai World Cup) has won more than Russell Road’s $1,678,234. Soul of the Matter ($2,302,818) won seven times. Russell Road has won 27 races and will be in the Classic for the sixth consecutive year.

“Six years in a row – you think about it, it’s just phenomenal to have a horse to run that long,” said owner Mark Russell. “And we’re competitive. It’s not like we’re just running in it. He’s very special. They come along once in a lifetime. I would love to have another one, but chances are I probably never will. We’re going to enjoy this while we have it.”

Russell Road, trained by James Casey, will have to contend with the usual suspects, including Lucy’s Bob Boy, a three-year-younger version of himself with 20 wins in 29 starts and three dominating wins over Russell Road in August and September.

“Lucy’s awful tough running around those turns right now,” Russell said. “He’s the horse to beat.”

The plan now is for Russell Road to run into 2015 as a 9-year-old.

“We’ll just kind of gauge where he is,” Russell said. “If his ability level stays the same, we’ll give him four or five races next year.”

Russell has owned horses since 1985. He bought a couple of half-sisters to Russell Road first before getting Russell Road himself. The half-sisters earned almost $500,000 each.

“It’s not something I thought I’d ever get lucky enough to run across,” Russell said. “It’s been like hitting three slot machines.”

On Saturday afternoon at Laurel Park, Roadhog, a winner of 10 races and $609,114, will try to win the Maryland Million Turf for the third consecutive year. The 7-year-old Pennsylvania-bred by Bowman’s Band finished seventh in his first try at the Turf in 2011 on a yielding course that he did not like then and probably would not like now. Last year, Roadhog was good enough to run down Ben’s Cat in the Turf. Roadhog pretty much dominated the 2012 Turf.

Trainer Lizzie Merryman got Roadhog in 2011 after the horse had a very solid 2010 for trainer Ned Allard. The owner, Ellendale Racing, thought some of the turf horses would really benefit from being at Fair Hill, so Merryman got Roadhog.

“I had admired him from afar,” she said.

Now, for the last four years, she has admired Roadhog up close.

“Roadhog is very opinionated about everything and really neat to be around,” Merryman said.

Roadhog got a beautiful ride in last year’s Turf from Kendrick Carmouche, who will ride again Saturday.

“For being an older turf horse, he’s pretty intense, and he’s pretty rider-sensitive,” Merryman said. “A rider that knows him well can kind of switch him off in the post parade and make everything better. He’s very reactive to riders.”

Carmouche is a good rider under any circumstance, a really good rider on grass, and very hard to beat on a horse he really knows.

“I was a little bit concerned because we had some rain during the week, and there was quite a little bit of give to the turf,” Merryman said of last year’s race. “But the turf was in beautiful shape and was really smooth. I think, in hindsight, it played really well into our hands. Any time you have a little give in the turf, it’s a little tiring for the ones that don’t want to go as far and a little bit better for the ones that are coming from off the pace.”

And when you are trying to beat Ben’s Cat, every edge helps.

So, the “Road” horses are going for a hat trick in their respective races in 2014. They are just a combined 2 for 11 this year, but each has been competitive, with a combined six in-the-money finishes. Bet on them and know you will get a professional performance. Bet against them and be prepared to watch a professional performance that could beat you.