VA-BRED RESEARCHER ON COMEBACK TRAIL

More than 11 months removed from the biggest win of his career, two-time Charles Town Classic winner Researcher will make his return to the races in Saturday night’s featured allowance at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. The race, which drew a field of six, will be the now seven-year-old’s first start since taking the 2010 Charles Town Classic over Awesome Gem and Redding Colliery.

Purchased with a career in steeplechase racing in mind, Researcher’s owners, the Kinross Corporation, decided to return the gelded son of Two Smart to flat racing and put him on a path to a third Charles Town Classic.

While Researcher will be reunited with jockey Luis Perez on Saturday, he will be making his first start for trainer Neil Morris.  Morris takes over from leading Charles Town trainer Jeff Runco who conditioned the horse to both Charles Town Classic wins.  Morris has overseen all of Researcher’s training in his comeback bid.

“We made a decision around January 1 that we were going to create a plan for the horse to get back to this point and make an effort at the Charles Town Classic,” Morris said.  “He’s done everything textbook so far that we’ve asked him to do.”

Since he was placed back in training, Researcher has posted three bullet workouts, the most recent being a 1:01.60, 5 furlong breeze at Charles Town on March 19th.  While Morris wants to see a solid effort on Saturday night in order to take the next step to the Charles Town Classic, finding the winners’ circle isn’t necessarily the goal.

“I don’t need to see a win on Saturday night.  I’m more interested in seeing him come from off the pace, make his run and finish strong.”

Among the challengers for Researcher is Janet Wayson’s In The Juice, who comes into the race with two wins in his two efforts at 1 1/8 miles at Charles Town.  In October 2010, In The Juice dominated the $50,000 HBPA Governor’s Cup with a 6 ¼ length victory over 2011 General George (G2) winner No Advantage. 

Also in the field is the Rodney Jenkins trained Edgewater, who returns from a five month layoff on Saturday.  Edgewater racked up more than $100,000 in earnings in 2010 on the strength of a second place finish behind Virginia-bred Sir Whimsey in the $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Memorial and win in the $75,000 Governor’s Day Stakes, both at Delaware Park.  In both races, Edgewater finished in front of Alma d’Oro, who has since gone on to win multiple stakes at Laurel and Aqueduct.  Travis Dunkelberger, who recently won his 3,500th career race, has the mount.

Peaceful Bliss, Leobuster and Termsofengagement round out the field.

Post time for Saturday’s first race at Charles Town is 7:15pm EST, with the featured allowance scheduled to go off at 10:25pm.  The 2011 Charles Town Classic (G3) will be run three weeks from Saturday on April 16th, with nominations for the $1,000,000 race closing on April 2nd.