06/29/2013 2:56PM

Mountaineer Park: Russell Road might make turf debut in Independence Day Stakes

Mike Montgomery
Russell Road, who has earned $1.4 million and won 24 races, might make his turf debut in Tuesday's Independence Day Stakes.

Independence Day arrives two days early at Mountaineer Park with a pair of $75,000 turf stakes.

Since the track is dark Wednesday and Thursday, the holiday celebration is set for Tuesday night, with a nine-race card starting at 7.

It kicks off with a bang, with the one-mile stakes occupying the first two races on the program: the Independence Day followed by the Firecracker for fillies and mares. Both proved popular at the entry box, with full fields of 12 for both and several more sitting on the also-eligible lists.

Russell Road is the biggest name in the Independence Day. After $1.4 million in earnings and 24 victories, including the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic twice, Russell Road could experience something new: a grass race. The 7-year-old gelding has never raced on turf.

Trainer Jim Casey is sitting on the fence. He would love to see the race come off the grass and onto the main track, where Russell Road has built a remarkable career.

They found just that situation last month in a rained-off Mountaineer allowance race, where Russell Road lost a head-bobbing decision by a whisker.

If the race stays on the grass, there is no guarantee Russell Road will run.

“We know he can run on the dirt,” Casey said. “As far as the grass, we really don’t know. We’ll have to see what happens.”

Strike Impact is a horse who definitely loves the course. The 9-year-old gelding, trained by Pat Dupuy, won the Independence Day last year and missed by a neck in the 2011 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker’s Cup Handicap.

Trainer Mike Maker sends out the uncoupled homebred duo of Derby Kitten and Sneaky Kitten for Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

Derby Kitten, the winner of the Lexington Stakes and the Ontario Derby in 2011, was a rallying third last time out in the J. Kenneth Self Shelby County Boys and Girls Club Stakes at Indiana Downs.

Sneaky Kitten, looking for his first stakes win, has been running primarily in New York-bred races.

Trainer Tevis McCauley has strength in numbers in the Firecracker, with three uncoupled entrants: Raising Dakota, Donna Getyourgun, and Holiday Soiree, the most accomplished member of the trio.

Holiday Soiree has run only once before on grass, finishing sixth in a maiden race at Ellis Park.

She’s had much better results lately on dirt, picking up a pair of thirds in stakes sprints: the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs and the Red Cross at Monmouth Park.

Just as in the Independence Day, the defending champ returns for a title defense.

Revelstoke won last year’s Firecracker by 4 3/4 lengths.

A 5-year-old trained by Jim Corrigan, Revelstoke hasn’t gotten on track this year, with a third-place finish in a Keeneland turf allowance her best showing in four tries.

The return to Mountaineer, where she is 1-2-0 in four races, might perk up her form.

Maker also has a runner in here for the Ramseys: Starsilhouette, who is riding a four-race winning streak.