10/15/2008 12:00AM

Stakes triple just a warmup


As a prelude to Saturday night’s West Virginia Breeders Classics program, featuring nine stakes worth a collective $1.8 million, Charles Town will run three $50,000 stakes sponsored by the local Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association on its Friday night card.

Four contenders appear difficult to separate in the 1 1/8-mile HBPA Governor’s Cup (race 8), which drew a full field of 10 older horses.

P V Lightening ran the fastest race of his 13-race career two starts ago when he dominated the $100,000 Owners’ Day Handicap at Delaware Park, then regressed when ambitiously spotted in the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup two weeks ago.

Coyoteshighestcall, a six-time winner each of the past two seasons for trainer Scott Lake, won his only start locally back in March and was good enough to finish a close third in the nine-furlong Claiming Crown Jewel in August.

Researcher has been first or second in 7 of 8 starts at Charles Town and comes off a wire-to-wire score over high-priced optional claimers at Laurel Park.

Sea Dubai steps up in class off a series of strong efforts in the $6,000 starter handicap ranks, including back-to-back lopsided victories going long in August and early September.

* The 7-year-old Love’s Strong Hart, coming off a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure in a $50,000 overnight handicap last month, faces two horses who are a combined 8 for 12 locally in the 4 1/2-furlong HBPA Bolivar, Harpers Ferry, and Shepherdstown Mayors (race 4).

The Maryland-based 9-year-old Crafty Schemer has won 3 of his last 4 starts, all in short sprints at Charles Town. Lacewell, second to Love’s Strong Hart as the 6-5 favorite three weeks ago, is 5 for 7 lifetime at Charles Town and won the $85,000 West Virginia Chairman’s Cup at Mountaineer two starts ago.

* Star Snuck, who has been in front or within a head of the lead at the stretch call of her last four starts while going slightly longer, rates a slight edge in the HBPA Charles Town and Ranson Mayors for fillies and mares going seven furlongs (race 7).

Her chief challengers are Circuit Breaker, a Steve Klesaris-trained mare who is 3 for 7 locally, and La Bomba, who has been first or second in all four of her starts at the distance.