11/17/2012 4:44PM

Mountaineer: Both favorites have questions to answer

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Clever Performance has been consistent throughout a 15-race campaign while competing primarily in $5,000 starter allowance events. Tangled Sheets has spent the bulk of his 28-race career racing on Polytrack and turf.

Both have questions to answer as the prime contenders in Monday night’s featured eighth race at Mountaineer Racetrack. The $23,000 race, which drew a field of eight, is a second-level optional $20,000 claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs.

The 4-year-old Clever Performance is based at Thistledown with trainer Nabu Morales, but has made frequent journeys to West Virginia. Since mid-June, 7 of Clever Performance’s 10 starts have come at Mountaineer, where he has 2 wins and 3 seconds in 6 tries over the main track.

Class and distance are the issues for Clever Performance, who has made 12 of his 15 starts this season in races at a mile or longer. He did finish second going 5 1/2 furlongs locally in September, earning a 79 Beyer Speed Figure that is a point higher than the par for a second-level allowance at Mountaineer.

Clever Performance comes off a head defeat as the 3-5 favorite in a six-furlong starter allowance also open to $10,000 claimers at Thistledown on Nov. 8. Statistically, Morales does well with sharp horses returning in sprints in less than 14 days. His horses who returned within that time span after an in-the-money finish have gone 20 for 61 (33 percent) the past two seasons.

Only one of Tangled Sheets’s five lifetime wins have come on dirt – a $16,000 claiming race over Aqueduct’s inner track in January 2011. Although his last two races were on Polytrack, Tangled Sheets did run well in back-to-back starts on dirt at Ellis Park this past summer. The 75 and 77 Beyers he posted in those two races put him in the thick of contention with Clever Performance’s best races.

Another positive factor working for Tangled Sheets is trainer Janet Haymaker’s record second time off the claim. In that category, Haymaker is 4 for 13 (31 percent) the past two years.

Tangled Sheets is one of two horses risked for the optional $20,000 tag.

Among the others, the most intriguing is the 3-year-old Beamish. Making his first start following a $7,500 claim in August, Beamish cruised to a 5 3/4-length win over first-level allowance foes at Beulah Park on Oct. 8. He prepped for this spot with a bullet half-mile work in 48.20 seconds on Nov. 12.