11/06/2008 12:00AM

Mountaineer: Beyer edge to Researcher

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A two-race experiment on turf during the summer didn't work out for Researcher. But since trainer Jeff Runco gave Researcher some time off and returned him to the main track, the 4-year-old gelding has flourished.

Back-to-back decisive victories, including the first triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure of his 12-race career, stamp Researcher as the horse to beat in Saturday night's $125,000 Mountaineer Mile Handicap.

Sir Whimsey, winner of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, would have been the favorite, but he was expected to run in a money allowance Friday at Aqueduct instead of shipping to West Virginia.

Since returning from a 2 1/2-month layoff, Researcher has won a third-level optional claimer and a stakes with Beyers of 95 and 101. He has had three weeks to recover from his career-best performance in the nine-furlong Governor's Cup at his home base, Charles Town.

Based on their affinity for Mountaineer's main track, stretch-out sprinter Ravalo and former $5,000 claimer Unbridled Wisdom merit respect.

Ravalo, who usually prefers six furlongs, is 2 for 2 locally for Maryland-based trainer Donald Barr, who is 3 for 5 - all in stakes - with the horses he has shipped to Mountaineer.

Unbridled Wisdom, who was claimed from the estate of Dale Baird for $5,000 in March, has improved dramatically since then, with 4 wins and 2 seconds in 6 starts since June, including a runner-up finish in the nine-furlong Fall Stakes locally a month ago. He has been first or second in 13 of 19 starts at Mountaineer.

The 9-year-old M B Sea was second in last year's Mile, but has been off form in four starts this season. Likewise, Coyoteshighestcall posted three consecutive triple-digit Beyers early this year, but hasn't been able to do better than an 81 in his last two starts and seems in declining form.