10/13/2009 11:00PM

Researcher returns fresh


After an unsuccessful summer tour out of town followed by nearly two months on the sidelines, Researcher will race at Charles Town for the first time since winning the $615,000 Charles Town Classic six months ago when he seeks to defend his title in Friday night's HBPA Governor's Cup Handicap.

The 1 1/8-mile Governor's Cup is one of three $50,000 stakes for open company on a card that serves as a prelude to Saturday night's $2 million West Virginia Breeders Classics program for statebreds.

Researcher, a 5-year-old gelding based locally with trainer Jeff Runco, romped by 14 lengths in last year's Governor's Cup and earned a career-best 107 Beyer Speed Figure winning the inaugural Charles Town Classic by 2 1/4 lengths in April.

He wasn't able to match that good form in three starts over the summer, finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, second as the 3-5 favorite in the R.R.M. Carpenter at Delaware Park, and last of six at 2-1 in the Grade 3 Iselin at Monmouth Park.

Runco said he feels Researcher will run better in the fall than he did during the summer.

"He had some serious issues dealing with the heat before the Iselin," Runco said. "We chose to give him a little breather, and he just seems to be a different horse in the cooler weather.

"We're glad to have him home," Runco added. "He's back in a comfortable environment at his home track."

Researcher's five rivals in the Governor's Cup (race 7) include Kaufy Big Shot, who returns to dirt, where he was a seven-time winner in 2008, after two unsuccessful tries on turf to begin his 2009 campaign, and Luckifee, a fresh 4-year-old who was an easy winner going nine furlongs in his lone previous start at Charles Town in April.

* Ju Jitsu Jax and Trust or Bust, two of the best short-sprint specialists this season locally, are rematched in the HBPA Jefferson County Commission at 4 1/2 furlongs (race 6).

The 3-year-old Ju Jitsu Jax won the $100,000 West Virginia Sprint Derby in August and easily handled older horses in a tune-up for this spot on Oct. 7, earning a career-best 98 Beyer.

Trust or Bust was at his best earlier this season when he reeled off five consecutive wins, including the $250,000 Charles Town Dash. His form went sour in two stakes out of town, then he returned to Charles Town to finish second behind Ju Jitsu Jax as the even-money favorite earlier this month.

* Sweet Goodbye and All Night Labor, separated by a half-length as the one-two finishers in the Aug. 15 Pink Ribbon, meet again as the prime contenders in the seven-furlong HBPA Jefferson County Municipalities for fillies and mares (race 8).