10/07/2015 10:11AM

Russell Road, Lucy’s Bob Boy ready for battle

Barbara D. Livingston
Russell Road (above), 9, and the 6-year-old Lucy's Bob Boy will face each other for the 12th time since October 2012 in Saturday's West Virginia Breeders' Classic.

The $500,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic is one of the most anticipated races of the year at Charles Town, and you certainly don’t want to miss Saturday night’s edition. After all, Russell Road, who will be starting in the race for the seventh straight year, is now 9. How many more years can he possibly hold his form?

As usual, he will face Lucy’s Bob Boy, who will be making his fourth consecutive Breeders’ Classic start.

Between them, Russell Road and Lucy’s Bob Boy have won four of the last six runnings of the race. Russell Road won last year, in 2011, and in 2009. Lucy’s Bob Boy won in 2012 and finished second to Russell Road in 2014.

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Russell Road and Lucy’s Bob Boy have raced against each other 11 times since October 2012, with Lucy’s Bob Boy finishing ahead of Russell Road six times. To illustrate how closely matched they are, the conditions of the Breeders’ Classic limit the field to 10 based on earnings in 2014-15; Lucy’s Bob Boy tops the nominations list at $336,145, with Russell Road second at $325,348.

To make things a bit more interesting Saturday night, a changing of the guard in the Charles Town hierarchy is not out of the question. James W. Casey, who trains Russell Road, also has a 3-year-old in the race for owner Mark Russell who he said should not be ignored.

“Charitable Annuity has been winning by five, six, seven lengths, and even though he has hasn’t faced this group before, we think he has an equal chance with Russell Road,” Casey said.

Charitable Annuity has won three of his last four starts. He will be making his first start beyond seven furlongs in the 1 1/8-mile Breeders’ Classic.

A year ago, Russell Road looked like he might be showing his age. He came into the Breeders’ Classic off three straight defeats to Lucy’s Bob Boy, who was made the 1-2 favorite. Russell Road chased Lucy’s Bob Boy to the stretch, looked beaten, then surged in deep stretch to win by a half-length.

This year, the tables are turned. Russell Road comes into the race off a strong overnight handicap victory at 1 1/16 miles, and Lucy’s Bob Boy enters off a troubled seventh-place finish against open company in the $100,000 Wild and Wonderful Stakes.

Casey thinks Russell Road might be favored despite the horse’s age.

“For a horse to be 9 going on 10 like him and to be running like a 4-year-old is amazing to me,” he said. “It’s like a 50- or 60-year-old person running against someone in their 20s. He and Lucy have been trading races back and forth, but his last race was good, and he’s been training very well since.”

In all fairness, Lucy’s Bob Boy’s last race is a toss-out. He had his head turned when the gate opened and broke behind the rest of the field. He then rushed up outside horses in the seven-furlong race and was fanned wide into the first turn.

“It was terrible,” said trainer Sandra Dono. “They went a 46 half, but he must have gone in 44. He came back like a beast after that race. He was mad. He didn’t get to run his race.”

Dono added that she feels good about how her 6-year-old is coming into Saturday’s race.

The Breeders’ Classic is one of nine stakes at Charles Town on Saturday night. The card will offer total purses of $1.08 million, and Travis Stone will be the guest announcer. First post is 7 p.m. Eastern.