03/24/2015 1:20PM

Russell Road, 9, still has spring in his step

Coady Photography
Russell Road got up in the final strides to catch Lucy's Bob Boy and win the West Virginia Breeders' Classic last year.

Last year, it looked as if time was catching up to Russell Road at age 8, but then he jumped up and won the $450,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic at Charles Town for a third time and called it a season.

Russell Road returned to the work tab at Charles Town last week – working not once, but twice – and even trainer James W. Casey is a bit surprised by Russell Road’s enthusiasm. Russell Road breezed three furlongs in 37.40 seconds March 13 and then worked a bullet half-mile in 47.00 on March 19.

“It’s unreal,” Casey said. “He’s 9 years old, and I train him like he was 4. I’m amazed how well he is doing. He’s training like he loves it.”

Russell Road hasn’t missed a season since he made his debut in August 2008 at Charles Town. He is 28 for 53, with more than $1.9 million in earnings for owner Mark Russell.

Twenty-three of Russell Road’s wins have come at Charles Town, where he has earned more than $1.6 million. Russell Road is the all-time leading West Virginia-bred by earnings.

Casey brings Russell Road home to the family’s Taylor Mountain Farm in Charles Town during the offseason.

“We turn him out on the farm in the winter, let him go in the pack a little and let him play,” Casey said.

Casey is the father of James M. Casey, a Charles Town trainer and veterinarian, and John Allen Casey, a trainer and blacksmith who also manages the farm, which is standing four stallions this year.

Casey follows the same schedule with Russell Road each spring, but this year, he deviated slightly.

“I brought him back a week early because I want to have him ready for the race on April 18,” he said. “There’s a stakes for him, and with a horse like him, there aren’t too many races to run in.”

April 18 is Charles Town Classic Day at Charles Town, but Casey isn’t pointing Russell Road for the $1.5 million main event. He is getting him ready for the $50,000 Confucious Say at seven furlongs.

Russell Road won an allowance race in his first race of 2014 but then finished fourth in his next start before finishing second or third behind Lucy’s Bob Boy three straight times. In the Breeders’ Classic, Lucy’s Bob Boy was sent off at 1-2, while Russell Road was 9-2.

Russell Road pressed the pace outside of Lucy’s Bob Boy from the outset of the 1 1/8-mile race. Lucy’s Bob Boy edged away to a clear lead nearing the stretch, but Russell Road kept on trying and came again to take the lead in deep stretch and win by a half-length.

Trainer Sandra Dono raced the 6-year-old Lucy’s Bob Boy four times over the winter. He is entered to run Thursday night in an allowance at Charles Town.

In his last start, Lucy’s Bob Boy turned in a rare poor performance. He broke outward and appeared to hit the side of the gate. He raced in early contention but then tired to finish seventh.

“He just broke bad and kind of banged himself coming out of the gate,” Dono said. “He came back okay.”

Russell Road and Lucy’s Bob Boy have faced each other nine times since October 2012, with Lucy’s Bob Boy finishing ahead of Russell Road in five of those races.

With Russell Road coming back for another season, it looks like the rivalry might still have life.