11/18/2010 12:10PM

Sea Rescue out to prove last was no fluke in A Huevo

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Mike Montgomery
Sea Rescue will try to build on his victory in last month’s $500,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic in Saturday's A Huevo Stakes at Charles Town.

Four of the top five finishers from last month’s $500,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic, including 57-1 winner Sea Rescue, are back at the same 1 1/8-mile distance for Saturday night’s $50,000 A Huevo Stakes at Charles Town.

The stakes for West Virginia-breds poses two key questions for handicappers. Can Sea Rescue, who made up 11 lengths in the last three furlongs to nip Colonel J W by a head, duplicate that performance? And is Russell Road, fourth as the 1-10 favorite in the Classic, no longer the best West Virginia-bred in training?

The 4-year-old Sea Rescue is coming off a career-best 89 Beyer Speed Figure – a 22-point improvement over the first start of his current form cycle – in the Classic, when he surprised even his own trainer and owner, Jeff Runco.

“We thought he could get up in there and get a good piece of it,” Runco said after the race. “We didn’t think he would win.”

If Sea Rescue reverts to his typical Beyer in the low to mid-60s, that won’t be good enough to beat a group that includes the winners of the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic in 2009 and 2008.

Russell Road, the 2009 Classic champion, had reeled off nine consecutive wins in restricted stakes company, including last year’s A Huevo by eight lengths. But his last two stakes efforts have been subpar: a distant sixth in the seven-furlong Frank Gall in August and a fade to fourth, beaten 4 1/2 lengths, in the Classic.

Russell Road will once again be coupled with Colonel J W, who nearly saved the day for win bettors in the Classic when he just missed by a head in the final jump before the wire. Both 4-year-olds are trained by James W. Casey. Prior to last month, Colonel J W had not faced restricted company since taking the seven-furlong West Virginia Lottery in October 2009.

Ghostly Thunder, the 2008 Classic winner, is back for another crack at Sea Rescue and Russell Road after enduring a four-wide trip around all three turns in last month’s race. He gets a rider change to Antonio Lopez and a favorable post postion shift from 9 last time out to 2 on Saturday night.

Among those who did not race in the Classic, the 3-year-old Green Spring Boy is the most intriguing. Second in the West Virginia Lottery on the Classic undercard, Green Spring Boy returned to finish third, beaten two lengths, while facing open company in a second-level allowance on Oct. 31. He has yet to race beyond seven furlongs in his 16-race career.