04/13/2010 11:00PM

Researcher targets lucrative repeat in Classic


Once again, a bevy of older horses are set to invade Charles Town for Saturday's $1 million Charles Town Classic. Once again, the horse to beat is the hometown hero Researcher, who is 9 for 13 at the uniquely configured Charles Town course.

Researcher, a 6-year-old Virginia-bred gelding, won the inaugural running of the Charles Town Classic last year when the purse of the race was dependent on a horse's level of accomplishment. For example, as a Grade 1 winner, Commentator was eligible to run for $1 million, while Researcher, as a Grade 3 winner, ran for the winner's share of $615,000.

This year, the purse of the race is a guaranteed $1 million. The Charles Town Classic drew a field of 13, but only 10 will be permitted to run. Three more were relegated to also-eligible status.

Charles Town is a six-furlong track, meaning a 1 1/8-mile race is run around three turns. Researcher has won his last five starts at Charles Town, four of those at 1 1/8 miles. Most recently, Researcher won an allowance race by 6 1/2 lengths going 1 1/16 miles on March 27.

"He ran a super race, he's had a nice work since then," trainer Jeff Runco said. "I'm happy with the way he's doing going into this race."

Runco was less happy about drawing post 9, but added "there's enough speed in there. We'll be okay."

Luis Perez, who is 5 for 10 aboard Researcher, has the call Saturday.

In the Classic, Researcher will be making his first start for the Kinross Corp. of Zohar Ben-Dov, which on Tuesday completed a sale to buy the horse from the estate of Hermen Greenberg, the proprietor of Rutledge Farm who died on Feb. 28 at the age of 89.

Encaustic, who comes off two front-running, big-speed figure victories at Laurel, is part of the speed. He breaks from post 3 under Justin Shepherd. Redding Colliery, who set a Laurel Park track record winning the John Campbell Handicap in February, is another speed horse. Jockey Anna Napravnik will likely have to use that speed from post 10.

Understatement, another front-running type, will attempt to transfer his undefeated Aqueduct inner-track form to the bullring of Charles Town. Gone Astray, who won the Pennsylvania and Ohio derbies at 3, and Fiddlers Afleet, last year's Oklahoma Derby winner, also ship in from New York.

Awesome Gem, the Hawthorne Gold Cup winner who most recently finished third in the New Orleans Handicap, ships in from Southern California for Craig Dollase.

Acting Zippy, Indian Dance, and No Advantage complete the body of the field. Enriched, Tizway, and Wicked B. Havior are on the also-eligible list.

The Charles Town Classic is race 10 on an 11-race card that begins at 6 p.m. Eastern. Post time for the Classic is 10:30 p.m.

There are four other stakes on the program, led by the $250,000 Sugar Maple Stakes for older fillies and mares at seven furlongs. A field of 10 was entered, though several were cross-entered in other spots. Jessica is Back, who is cross-entered in Saturday's $200,000 Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne, would be the horse to beat in the Sugar Maple if she runs.

Comedero, who is 5 for 6, with all five wins at six furlongs, will try seven furlongs in the $100,000 Blue and Gold for 3-year-olds sprinters.

Newly minted millionaire Joey P. seeks his second stakes win at Charles Town in the $75,000 Webb Snyder at 4 1/2 furlongs, while Russell Road and Beware of the Bop head an eight-horse field in the $50,000 Springtime Handicap.