09/18/2007 11:00PM

W.Va. Breeders Classics preps begin

EmailHorses pointing to next month's lucrative purses on the West Virginia Breeders Classics program begin tuning up Friday night at Charles Town.

The $50,000 Millard Harrell Memorial, a seven-furlong race for West Virginia-accredited and West Virginia-bred 3-year-olds, is the first of six local preps over the next two weekends for the 21st annual West Virginia Breeders Classics series on Oct. 20. Each of the eight stakes on that program is worth at least $100,000, highlighted by the $500,000 Classic at 1 1/8 miles.

The logical favorite in the nine-horse field for the Harrell is Gold Standard. Trained by David Walters, Gold Standard began his career in late May with three consecutive modest Beyer Speed Figures in the low 50s. But he has improved dramatically in his last two starts, posting back-to-back Beyers of 81 and 90 while winning twice by a combined margin of 11 1/4 lengths.

Gold Standard would have to regress for any of the others to upset him.

Two horses in sharp form are Blues in the Night and Peaceful Bliss.

Blues in the Night, who last December was racing against maidens for a $4,500 tag, has been a much-improved horse since he came back from a two-month freshening in mid-July. He just missed in a first-level allowance and then decisively defeated eight other statebreds in a stakes. Both races were at the Harrell distance of seven furlongs.

Peaceful Bliss missed by a nose, finished third behind Gold Standard, and crushed first-level allowance runners in three starts since he was claimed by trainer William Campbell for $10,000 in June.

Also entered is Eagle Speed, a Penn National-based gelding who is coupled with Fancy Dan. Last season, Eagle Speed won two restricted stakes at Charles Town, including the Vincent Moscarelli on the West Virginia Breeders' Classics card. He has yet to display his best form in three starts this season.