2016 Charles Town Classic Preview

“If you build it, they will come.”

It may be one of the most often quoted lines of cinema, but a practical application of it exists in the horse racing world at an oval in the mid-Atlantic.   A more representative quote would be “if you fund it, they will come.”

Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races did fund it, and they did come.  The finished product is the Grade Two $1.250,000 Charles Town Classic.  Created in 2009, it’s been won by locals (Researcher in 2009 and 2010), horses from the east (Caixa Electronica in 2012) and west (Game on Dude, 2013), with even a Chicago connection (Mister Marti Gras was third in the 2012 running) mixed in.  The Charles Town Classic is a race for the handicap set, and a chance at a rich pot for the four-and-up set.  The race got graded in 2011, soon after elevated to a Grade Two, and serves all comers.

Game On Dude, thrice a Big Cap winner, ships cross-country and prevails at 3-10 odds in the 2013 Charles Town Classic. Video courtesy Youtube.

It may, like that corn field turned baseball diamond, be in a non-descript location.  But the Charles Town Classic put Charles Town – the town and its titular oval a long hour’s drive from Baltimore and Washington – on the horse racing map.  Charles Town Races often languished in its pre-slots days in the 1990s.  A historical day trip to nearby Harpers Ferry may have been more exciting than a night at the races at Charles Town in the pre-slots days.  But those days are in the past, and Charles Town is flush enough and recognized enough to create a race like the Charles Town Classic and use it to headline the track’s biggest day.

The track is on the Horse Races Now app, and users there can access its free video stream. Their live video stream is also available for free on their website. Both the Horse Races Now app and Charles Town’s website distribute/provide their streams each and every live racing day.  Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will provide live radio coverage of the Charles Town Classic in a program to air from 4:30pm ET to 6:00 pm ET on its site and Sirius/XM 93.

The Charles Town Classic, scheduled for Saturday April 23rd, from eastern West Virginia isn’t our only preview this week; Nicolle Neulist returns to Lexington, Kentucky for the Grade Two Elkhorn Stakes.

Charles Town — Race 12 — Grade Two Charles Town Classic — One and one-eighth miles on dirt — post time 5:05 pm ET

The purse may be down from last year, as it was a million and a half for the 2015 renewal, but that didn’t take away the marketing punch of this race in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.  Charles Town normally functions as a night time oval, but note that this race (and the whole day) will be raced in the daylight.

PAGE MCKENNEY hit the board last year at 33-1 in the Charles Town Classic, but that high price comes with a disclaimer: winterbook BC Classic Favorite Shared Belief was the odds-on favorite and when he stumbled and DNF-ed in his star-crossed final start, payouts went on tilt.  That shouldn’t obscure a horse who seemed to make a living cashing checks, in route races on big day undercards, mostly at east coast ovals.  He found his niche, and exploited it to wins in listed stakes at Penn National and Laurel in the second half of last year.  He’s an honest type (ten of ten in the trifecta last year, two for two this year), he likes nine furlongs (seven starts, three wins, seven podium finishes), and proved he can work fine off a layoff last fall winning the Small Stakes on DeFrancis Day.  In a race where big names ship from big ovals, let’s get a square price on a honest type.  Horacio Karamanos is named to ride the last-out G3 General George winner for conditioner Mary Eppler.  Most trip handicappers have this race circled for DONWORTH, who took the worst of it in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.  While the cross-country ship won’t be an issue (these are the connections behind Nyquist), what could be an issue is that he hasn’t won since last summer at Delaware.  He did show gameness on the lead two back in the G2 San Antonio.  But he won’t be alone on the lead, with stretchout SONNY INSPIRED in the field.  DONWORTH may have fight, but he could be bet down off his bad trip in the Big Cap.  Worth noting the 1-3 finishers of it went 2-1 last week in the Oaklawn ‘Cap.  STANFORD has started his four-year-old year with a pair of second place finishes in one-turn miles at Gulfstream. He goes third off the winter freshening and did win the local Haskell prep last year at Monmouth.  He gets a pace to sit off but a chance to be forward with.  However, sometimes what happens at Gulfstream stays at Gulfsream.  He’ll need to show he can take his act on the road, a concern given his only wins have been at Gulfstream and Monmouth.  He, like DONWORTH, gets used defensively.



#4 DONWORTH (3/1)

#7 STANFORD (9/2)

Longshot:  Charles Town, whether or not the casinos are funding the races or not, was and is a bull ring.  It’s six furlongs around and this race is contested at three turns.  #2 CHARITABLE ANNUITY (20/1) won’t have the shipping hurdles of a DONWORTH or a STANFORD as he’s based at this oval.  Winner at the three-turn mile and an eighth configuration twice last year, he’s the leader of the WV-bred handicap division (as seen by winning the $500K West Virginia Breeders’ Classics here last fall).  He does have a win in open company, and the trainer is 23% wins/58% top three going third off.  This is an ambitious spot for him, but he is a horse for the course who should be balloon odds based on betters scoffing at his local form.


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