12/12/2009 12:00AM

Researcher in position for a repeat

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Researcher won the Queens County at Aqueduct last December and will be looking for a repeat on Saturday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y - Researcher gave the West Virginia-based trainer Jeff Runco the first graded stakes victory of his career when he shipped to New York last December to take the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap at Aqueduct. Runco hopes for a repeat performance Saturday when Researcher meets seven opponents in the Grade 3, $100,000 Queens County.

Last year, Researcher entered the Queens County off three consecutive victories, including a 14-length score in the Governor's Cup at Charles Town and a victory in the Mountaineer Mile Handicap. This year, Researcher won the Governors Cup by 14 1/2 lengths but finished second as the 6-5 favorite in the Mountaineer Mile.

In that race, Researcher had a very wide trip early, was moved to the inside when the winner, Encaustic, started to drift out in the stretch, and made a mild to be second, three lengths behind Encaustic, to whom Researcher was spotting seven pounds.

"He ran better than it shows on paper," Runco said. "He had a tough trip from the outside post."

Saturday, Researcher will break from post 2 under John Velazquez, who is expected back in New York after spending a few days with his family in Puerto Rico. Researcher figures to come from off the pace in this speed-laden field.

Lord Kipling, Rodman, Storm Play, and possibly Honour Devil could be forwardly placed in the 1 3/16-mile Queens County. Rodman is coming off a 7 3/4-length victory in a first-level allowance race at Aqueduct on Nov. 11, in which he came from off the pace. Stretching out in distance beyond a mile for the first time, Rodman figures to be on or near the lead under Javier Castellano.

"I'm going to tell [Castellano] to relax him as much you can but don't wrestle with him," trainer Mike Hushion said.

Honour Devil, the 2008 UAE Derby winner, won a stakes-caliber allowance in front-running fashion on Nov. 19.

New York-breds Stud Muffin and the million-dollar earner Naughty New Yorker would benefit from a contested pace. Stud Muffin is returning from a foot injury that sidelined him most of the fall. Naughty New Yorker seeks to snap an 11-race losing streak. More Than a Reason looks overmatched in what will be his 24th start of the year.