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CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Owner Michael Furr's Lucy's Bob Boy looks to defend his crown on Saturday night as he takes his spot in a full gate of 10 horses for the $500,000 West Virginia Breeders' Classic as part of the West Virginia Breeders' Classics XXVII card at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
The 1 1/8 Breeders' Classic is one of nine stakes races on a card that offers nearly $1.2 million in purse money for state-breds having nominated to the West Virginia Breeders' Classics program.
There have been few horses as dominant at a track as Lucy's Bob Boy has been at Charles Town over the past couple years, with the four-year-old son of Flatter winning 13 of his last 14 outings over the surface, with an average margin of victory of nearly 6 lengths. Included in those 13 triumphs is a win in last year's West Virginia Breeders' Classic where he stretched out to the three-turn configuration of Charles Town's 1 1/8 mile route for the first time and cruised to an eight-length victory.
And while his victory in the 2012 West Virginia Breeders' Classic was unquestionably impressive, Lucy's Bob Boy's trainer Sandra Dono thinks her stable star has come back with a different attitude as a 4-year-old that's helped him take the next step.
"We can tell that he's just a lot sharper than he was as a three-year-old," Dono stated in a news release. "His attitude has been different and he can sense when he's ready to go. With his attitude right now, you can tell he knows he's coming up to a race."
As far as the competition on Saturday, Dono still believes a horse competing in this race for the fifth time is the top threat to Lucy's Bob Boy.
"Yeah, I think Russell Road still is the horse we have to worry about the most," Dono said. "Even though he lost his last race, he's still an old class horse and you've got to be worried about him every time he runs."
Tthe now 7-year-old Russell Road will seek to win the West Virginia Breeders' Classic for a third time, having taken the 2009 and 2011 editions. While he came into the race off a win in both 2009 and 2011, Russell Road's owner Mark Russell doesn't mind coming into the 2013 Breeders' Classic off a loss in September's Harry Buch Handicap.
"You know, about seven weeks before his last start, we ran him in a sprint at Mountaineer," Russell said. "And we knew going from the one turn there to three turns here would be tough and he'd probably be a little short for that race."
While the loss in his last start certainly wasn't by design, the gelding's campaigns have been designed for him to peak when it comes to Breeders' Classic time.
"We know what the goal is for him every year and don't really start tightening the screws with him until a month or six weeks before the West Virginia Breeders' Classic," Russel said. "That's one of the keys to keeping him around as long as we have. We don't keep him cranked up all year and know we always have this spot to point to come October."
The strategy has paid off for Russell and his team as Russell Road has banked more than $1.5 million in career earnings and sits behind only Soul of the Matter on the list of highest earning West Virginia breds of all time.
Matt McGowan rides Russell Road, who breaks from the rail in pursuit of his third Breeders' Classic win.
Fred High, who defeated Russell Road in the aforementioned Harry Buch Handicap looms as another of the top threats to the 4-to-5 morning line favorite as he comes into the race off two consecutive victories. Based in Maryland for trainer John Robb, Fred High will himself be giving it a third try in the $500,000 Breeders' Classic having finished fourth in 2011 and sixth last year.
Wesley Ho, aboard for Fred High's two recent victories once again has the call.
While Russell Road may be in pursuit of his third win in this race, David Raim's Golden Set will look to be the first horse in West Virginia Breeders' Classics history to win three different Breeders' Classics races in his career. As a two-year-old, the Jeff Runco trainee won the Farm Family Insurance & Vincent Moscarelli Breeders' Classic and followed that up with a victory in West Virginia Lottery Breeders' Classic the following year. The gelding by Tapit almost secured the feat in 2012, finishing under the wire first in the Onion Juice Breeders' Classic, only to be disqualified and placed third.
The body of the race is rounded out by Strawberry Cupcake, who was second to Golden Set in the Dr. Ernest Benner Handicap in his last outing, multiple stakes winner Son of a Bear, Luca's Wind Dancer, Clink Clink Clink and a pair from the barn of Ollie Figgins III in longshots Figpenn and Allegheny Jack.
Mister Brass and Sea Rescue - the latter of which won the 2010 West Virginia Breeders' Classic at odds of 57-to-1 - remain on the also eligible list and would need defections from the race to run.
The $500,000 West Virginia Breeders' Classic is the eighth race on Saturday's card and is scheduled to go at 10:45 p.m. The featured event will be shown live on a Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic broadcast running from 10:30 p.m.-11 p.m. while HRTV will provide in-studio coverage of much of the card. For information on HRTV's coverage of the West Virginia Breeders' Classics, visit www.hrtv.com/racing/charles-town