10/10/2001 11:00PM

Youth, class favor Confucius Say

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The $250,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic, to be run Saturday night at Charles Town, comes down to youth and talent versus age and experience. Confucius Say, a 3-year-old son of Eastover Court, will be favored against seven others, including Coolmars, who won the race last year, and Rebellious Dreamer, the winner in 1999.

The 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Breeders Classic is the feature on a card of eight stakes for West Virginia-bred or -sired horses. Purses on the program, the 15th Breeders Classics Day, total $850,000. Founded by NFL Hall of Famer Sam Huff, the Breeders Classics will be televised on ESPN2 on Sunday from 4:30-5 p.m. Eastern.

Confucius Say has made 13 starts - compared with 39 for the 6-year-old Coolmars and 43 for the 5-year-old Rebellious Dreamer - and has won six of them. He has been racing against much stronger opposition than his rivals, having finished third in the $200,000 Virginia Derby on the Colonial Downs turf in July, and second and third in stakes at Delaware Park and Mountaineer Park in his last two starts. Before those races, Confucius Say ran off three straight wins at Charles Town, including a victory in the Strike the Gold at the Breeders Classic distance.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Confucius Say, who has been on or near the lead in most of his races, is his outside post. It takes three turns to cover nine furlongs on the six-furlong Charles Town track, and there is a short run to the first turn.

But Randy Funkhouser, who along with his mother, Ruth, owns O'Sullivan Farms, the owner and breeder of Confucius Say, doesn't think the 8 post will be a problem.

"He'll do anything you want," said Funkhouser. "He can lay off it or go to the front. Certainly he'll be close to the pace. But he gallops in 24 [seconds] and 48, and he'll finish like a bear."

George Yetsook trains Confucius Say and Larry Reynolds will ride.

Coolmars ran third to Rebellious Dreamer's second two starts back in a nine-furlong allowance, then finished second in the seven-furlong Robert Hilton in his last start.

Jeff Runco, trainer of Coolmars, said he didn't think Coolmars ran his best in that nine-furlong allowance, and that his performance in the Hilton and works since that race indicate Coolmars is set for a top effort.

"He's training as well as I've ever seen him," said Runco.

Rebellious Dreamer, who was awarded first place in 1999 by disqualification and ran second to Coolmars in last year's race, is owned and trained by John Casey, whose family has dominated the Breeders Classic. John Casey, his brother James M. Casey, his father James W. Casey, and his mother Eleanor Casey have won as owner and/or trainer in eight of the 14 runnings.

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