Past Champions Stanford and Imperative Headline Charles Town Classic
The $1.25 million Charles Town Classic headlines the biggest day of racing in West Virginia Saturday with eight stakes races on the 13-race card. Defending champion Stanford (8-5) and 2014 winner Imperative (3-1) are the race favorites and familiar foes. Imperative finished 4th in last year’s race won by Stanford, but the two met this year at Gulfstream and Imperative got the head-bobbing win in a superb stretch duel with Stanford in the inaugural Poseidon Stakes Jan. 28 on Pegasus World Cup day.
Stanford bounced back to win the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs March 11 for his 6th win in 15 starts that also includes five runner-up finishes with over $1.3 million in career earnings. The 5-year-old bay son of Malibu Moon has finished 1st or 2nd in nine of his last 11 starts with three strong starts this year showing good speed in his last race wearing blinkers for the first time.
“The main objective with putting the blinkers on was keeping him focused throughout the race,” trainer Todd Pletcher said following the Challenger Stakes. “He lost his focus a couple of times, and both times we think it cost him the race.”
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will rider Stanford for the fourth straight race and break from the rail with New Jersey-bred Sunny Ridge (6-1) breaking right next to him form post 2. Sunny Ridge has won back-to-back minor stakes races at Aqueduct this year and has the speed and versatility to challenge up front or come just off the pace as he did winning his last race.
Imperative (3-1) is expected to be a big challenger having won this race in 2014 and runner-up in 2015. Last year the 7-year-old Bernardini gelding finished 4th behind Stanford. But new trainer Bob Hess took over this year and watched Imperative win the Poseidon Handicap in his 2017 debut, out-dueling Stanford in a neck-and-neck stretch duel. Imperative was 9th in the Santa Anita Handicap last month, but should be ready for this race with a jockey switch to Javier Castellano.
“He loves the track configuration at Charles Town,” Hess said. “I think he loves that surface being a little kinder. He lost a shoe in the Big ‘Cap, and not saying he would have won, but his feet are just a little delicate so that’s what really hurt him in there.
“He’s put some weight back on that he lost after the Poseidon. He’s been training on the synthetic training track at Keeneland, and working over the main. Javier (Castellano) worked him the other day…and he and Javy seem to have really clicked in the morning, and Javy certainly knows the track well there and that’s a plus,” Hess added.
In addition to 8 stakes worth nearly $1.7 million, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races will again offer a Guaranteed $100,000 All-Stakes Pick 4 covering races 9 through 12 on its April 22nd Charles Town Classic card.
|Charles Town Classic Guaranteed $100,000 All Stakes Pick 4*|
|Race||Post Time||Stakes Name|
|9||4:28pm||$85,000 Robert Hilton Memorial S.|
|10||4:58pm||$100,000 Sugar Maple S.|
|11||5:35pm||$1,250,000 Charles Town Classic (G2)|
|12||6:10pm||$50,000 Confucius Say S.|
In addition, the other stakes races set for Saturday include Race 2 the $50,000 Russell Road, Race 6 the $50,000 Coin Collector, Race 7 the $50,000 It’s Binn Too Long and Race 8 the $50,000 Original Gold.