12/13/2008 1:00AM

Researcher wins fourth straight


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - This time of year usually brings a horde of out-of-towners to New York. For trainer Jeff Runco, it was a reason not the season that brought him and his streaking gelding Researcher to Aqueduct from West Virginia.

The reason was the Grade 3, $108,400 Queens County Handicap, a race Researcher won by a half-length over stubborn pacesetter Brilliant Son. It was 5 1/2 lengths back to Dry Martini, the favorite, in third. Sir Whimsey and Temporary Saint completed the order of finish.

It was the fourth consecutive victory for Researcher - and eighth from 14 starts overall - and it gave Runco his first graded stakes win as a trainer.

"It means even more getting it in New York," said Runco, whose flight from West Virginia was delayed to the point where he only got here a half-hour before the race.

Researcher had won his last three races at Laurel, Charles Town, and Mountaineer. He was stretching out from a mile to 1 3/16 miles, but Runco was confident the added ground would not be a burden.

Under Mike Luzzi, Researcher settled into third position as Brilliant Son set the pace while being chased by Temporary Saint. At the five-sixteenths pole, Luzzi tipped Researcher three wide, and by the quarter pole he had moved into second. Researcher came up alongside Brilliant Son at the eighth pole and was able to outfinish that rival through the last 70 yards.

Researcher, a Virginia-bred son of Two Smart, was timed in 1:55.87 and returned $8.10 as the third choice.

"I rode for Jeff 20 years ago - he's a pretty good trainer," Luzzi said. "My brother [John] breezed the horse and called me about him. He's a push-button horse to ride."

Runco said that Researcher would return to Charles Town and get "a little breather" before his 5-year-old season.