06/16/2009 11:00PM

Joey P. looking for his million

Email
EquiPhotos
Joey P. will attempt to defend his title in Saturday night's Charles Town Invitational Dash.

Defending champion Joey P. will have to deal with a pair of graded stakes sprinters coming off extended layoffs in his quest to become a millionaire this weekend.

The Monmouth Park-based Joey P. will be challenged by Florida shipper Ikigai and the Kentucky colt Eaton's Gift in Saturday night's $250,000 Charles Town Invitational Dash.

The Dash is the co-feature on a four-stakes card that features an appearance by Big Drama, the fifth-place finisher in the Preakness, in the $250,000 Red Legend for 3-year-olds. The seven-furlong Red Legend (race 10) completes an all-stakes pick four that begins with a pair of $100,000 races, the Lady Charles Town for 3-year-old fillies going 4 1/2 furlongs and the Wild and Wonderful at seven furlongs.

Entries for all four stakes were drawn Wednesday.

The 4 1/2-furlong Dash, which drew a field of 10, plus three also-eligibles, is topped by the 7-year-old Joey P., who needs to finish at least second to surpass the $1 million milestone. He will break from post 4 with Charles Town's leading rider, J.D. Acosta, aboard.

His chief challengers figure to be Ikigai, winner of the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park in January, and Eaton's Gift, who won the Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream in February 2008. Ikigai, who will be ridden by Jermaine Bridgmohan from post 5, has been off since March. Eaton's Gift will be making his first start since October when he leaves from post 7 under Sylvester Carmouche.

Big Drama drew post 9 as the probable favorite for the Red Legend and will be ridden by Eibar Coa. His competition in a field of 10, plus two also-eligibles, is topped by Grade 3 winner Azul Leon and the locally based Russell Road.

Azul Leon, based in Southern California with trainer Doug O'Neill, was a hot prospect last summer when he won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship and missed by a nose in the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar. He will be making his first start since December when he breaks from post 7 under Michael Baze.

Russell Road is 6 for 7 at Charles Town, including a neck victory in the $100,000 Blue N Gold last time out. He will be looking for his fifth stakes win locally and breaks from post 4 under jockey Eric Camacho.

Special first post time for Saturday's card is 6 p.m. Eastern.