04/21/2016 1:16PM

Russell Road launches 10-year-old season in Confucious Say

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Barbara D. Livingston
Ten-year-old Russell Road will try to capture his fourth Confucius Say victory Saturday at Charles Town.

The 13-race Charles Town Classic card on Saturday includes six other stakes, topped by the $150,000 Sugar Maple and the $100,000 Robert Hilton Memorial.

There also are four $50,000 West Virginia-bred stakes on the program, which begins at 12:45 p.m. Eastern. The card will be streamed live on DRF.com.

A $100,000-guaranteed pick four begins on race 9 and comprises the Confucius Say, Hilton Memorial, Sugar Maple, and Charles Town Classic.

The Confucius Say is one of the more interesting races on the card as local legend Russell Road will make his 10-year-old debut in the seven-furlong race for owner Mark Russell and trainer James Casey. Russell Road, who is about $35,000 short of $2 million in earnings, has won 30 of 58 starts since beginning his career at Charles Town in August 2008.

Russell Road has won his seasonal debut in five straight years. He won the Confucius Say in 2015, 2012, and 2011 and Mountaineer allowance races in 2013 and 2014.

Russell Road will be making his first start since having bled in the $450,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic in October. He finished ninth at 5-2 in that race.

Also in the Confucius Say is Lucy’s Bob Boy, who has traded decisions with Russell Road since 2012. Lucy’s Bob Boy, trained by Sandra Dono, weakened to finish fourth as a slight favorite over Russell Road in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic last fall. He weakened in the stretch to finish sixth against optional-claiming company in his 7-year-old debut on April 13.

Amherst Street, who won off a 21-month layoff at Charles Town in March to remain unbeaten in seven starts, is an also-eligible for the Confucius Say. The conditions of the race use 2015-16 earnings to determine entry into the field if the race overfills, and Amherst Street missed the entire 2015 season due to a bleeding issue.

The Hilton Memorial, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds, matches Quijote, Big Deep, and Virtual Machine.

Quijote, trained by Tom Amoss, started his career with two wins at Fair Grounds and then finished second in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct in early March.

Big Deep earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure in winning a maiden race at Gulfstream Park for trainer Alan Goldberg on April 2. He finished second in Gulfstream maiden races in his first two starts.

Trainer Joe Sharp sends in Virtual Machine from Kentucky. Although still a maiden, Virtual Machine finished second in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park on April 2. He has made his last three starts around two turns, which may give him an advantage over Quijote and Big Deep.

The Sugar Maple, a two-turn, seven-furlong race for fillies and mares, has drawn a field of nine and is wide open.

Athena closed out her 3-year-old season with three straight wins, including the $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go at Laurel Park in December, but hasn’t raced since. Based with Helen Pitts at Churchill Downs, she did race around two turns twice last year. Javier Castellano takes the mount.

Trainer Michelle Nevin will start Making Havoc, who won a second-level optional race at Aqueduct by 7 1/2 lengths while in for a $62,000 claiming tag. Nevin claimed Making Havoc for $62,000 last June. Jose Ortiz rides.

Sweet On Smokey is coming off a 10-length win in the $52,000 Videogenic Stakes on New York Claiming Championship Day at Aqueduct for trainer Claudio Gonzalez. Sweet On Smokey looked good in winning that day, but she was facing only three rivals.

Flattering Bea finished second, beaten a neck, in last year’s Sugar Maple. Trained by Crystal Pickett, Flattering Bea is 6 for 10 at Charles Town but will be making her first start since last September.

In race 6, the $50,000 Coin Collector, the undefeated Bullets Fever, the best 2-year-old male at Charles Town last year, makes his 3-year-old debut for trainer Jeff Runco. The Coin Collector is a 4 1/2-furlong race for statebred 3-year-olds.