Fourstardave Handicap Preview

Time Test Looks Tough in Fourstardave while World Approval Tries to Snap Trainers Struggles at the Spa

This is the 33rd running of The FourStarDave Handicap (G1) for 3-year-olds and up over the inner turf course at Saratoga. The $500,000 Grade I race was shorted to 1 mile in 2012, and this year’s edition has a field of 7 lined up including a filly, Sassy Little Lila (6-1), battling the boys.

Disco Partner (2-1) and World Approval (9-2) will both have new jockeys in the irons. That’s because their regular riders are in Chicago for the Arlington Million. We feel this will really affect Disco Partner, as he’s won 4-of-5 coming into Saturday’s race as the 2nd betting choice. But Disco Partner has to be ridden to perfection as he has one big kick coming from the rear. If the new jockey Tyler Gaffalione doesn’t time his move right on Disco Partner it will be very costly down the lane. If that were to come at the expense of World Approval, who will also be racing on or near the lead, then trainer Mark Casse would pick up just his 2nd win of the meet through 40 starts heading into the weekend.

There appears to be little speed lined up and that will really help Sassy Little Lila. She was scratched last weekend in another stakes race at Saratoga by her trainer Brad Cox for this spot and she’s also facing males today as well.  Sassy Little Lila will take them as far as she can on the front end, and while she may hang on for a share at the wire, a win would be a big surprise.

The morning line favorite Time Test (8/5) looks tough in this spot for trainer Chad Brown despite trying a mile for the first time in the U.S. Time Test is coming into this race after finishing 2nd in back to back races at Belmont Park as the favorite. Many handicappers will look to fade him as they consider him a money burner off those last two races. We also think Disco Partner will take money at the windows, but Time Test has lots of talent and class and can rate much closer to the pace will little speed pushing on the front end. We suggest making a win wager on Time Test at 8/5 odds, along with an exacta key over Sassy Little Lila, Disco Partner, and Ballagh Rocks (10-1).

The FourStarDave Handicap (G1) is race 10 at Saratoga on Saturday, Aug. 12 with an estimated post time of 6:28 ET as Race No. 10 on the Inner Turf.

Kenny Schmitt contributed to this article. Follow him on Twitter @FBWinners.

Race Preview: National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame

National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Race is Competitive Feature Friday at Saratoga

The Racing Hall of Fame inductees will be introduced Friday morning, and then state-bred fillies and mares will break from the gate in Race 1 at 1:00 pm ET to start the weekend of racing at Saratoga. Javier Castellano, who has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey each of the past four years, will be inducted into the National Museum Racing Hall of Fame. He’ll then ride one of the race favorites in Race 1 on the turf, Corey Q (5-2), for trainer Chad Brown. The featured race of the day will be at 5:40 ET when 10 three-year-olds break from the gate for the $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (G2). The 1 1/16 mile turf test will have Castellano riding one of the favorites again aboard Big Handsome (3-1) for trainer Tony Dutrow.

The four top favorites in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes will break from the four inside posts. That includes Yoshida (JPN) at 7-2. The Japan-foiled colt trained by Bill Mott liked the soft turf at Pimlico in May to win his stakes debut from the back of the pack, but busted his backers as the favorite last time out in his graded stakes debut, finishing 5th in the Belmont Derby Invitational. Favorite Caviar Czar (IRE), by Medaglia d’Oro, is 2-1 odds breaking from the 3-hole for trainer Todd Pletcher. He broke his maiden at Churchill and then finished 2nd last out in allowance company on the dirt. Beatable favorite here. Bricks and Mortar (5-2) is on the rail for trainer Chad Brown, and jockey Joel Rosario. The dark bay by Giant’s Causeway is a perfect 3-for-3 following his Manilla Stakes win on the 4th of July. Rosario rallied him from the back of the pack at the three quarter pole and to soar to the front in the shadow of the finish line by a neck over Big Handsome (3-1). The Street Boss colt Big Handsome likes to stalk and stride home and he’ll get plenty of wagering interest with HOFer Castellano aboard.

Snap Decision (5-1) is a Hard Spun colt who won in allowance company last time out for trainer Shug McGaughey. He’s been in the money his last six races including his lone stakes try when 3rd in the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) in March. Secretary at War (8-1) will be running on the lead and has value with John Velazquez riding after finishing a very close 3rd in the Manilla behind Bricks and Mortar and Big Handsome.  Arklow (10-1 breaks from the outside and he too was a huge disappointment as the second choice in the Belmont Derby where he tired badly in the stretch and finished last of 11. If he runs back to his previous two races at similar distances, then he’ll contend. Jockey Felix Geroux rides for trainer Brad Cox at a healthy price.

Long shots Parlor (15-1), another Giant’s Causeway colt Makarios (20-1) trained by Nick Zito and Bonus Points, Pletcher’s other runner, round out the field.

A well-matched and difficult-to-handicap race with Castellano another Hall of Famer on the list. Afternoon thunderstorms (40%) are in the forecast for Saratoga Springs, NY, so confirm the race will stay on the turf.

Getting Set for the Saratoga Summer Stakes Races

Saratoga Summer Meet Features 35 Graded Stakes Including 16 Grade 1’s

The best racing of the summer season starts this week with Del Mar out West in California and the Saratoga Summer Meet in Saratoga Springs, NY. Racing fans and horsemen look forward to these meets, which draw the best racing, and betting, in the world. The 40-day Saratoga Summer Meet starts Friday, July 21 and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 4.

During the 2017 Summer Meet, Saratoga hosts 35 graded stakes races, including 16 Grade I races – 13 on the dirt track and 3 on turf. A total of 69 stakes worth $18.775 million in purses are set for this summer at Saratoga, the oldest track in the U.S. and voted one of the top-10 sports venues of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated, .

The two richest races at the carnival is the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 26, and the $1.2 million Whitney Stakes, the first ‘Win and You’re In’ Breeders’ Cup Challenge race of the Saratoga meet. The Travers is the traditional midsummer highlight for 3-year-olds, and the world’s best race horse, Arrogate, announced his arrival with a record-breaking performance in the 2016 Travers Stakes.

Travers day is August 26, and the biggest day of racing at Saratoga with six Grade I races including four ‘Win and You’re In’ Breeders’ Cup Challenge races. They include:

  • $700,000 Personal Ensign – (BC Distaff)
  • $500,000 Ballerina – (BC Filly & Mare Sprint)
  • $600,000 Forego – (BC Dirt Mile)
  • $1 Million Sword Dancer – (BC Turf)

Five graded stakes headline opening weekend at Saratoga, and the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) for top 3-year-olds follows next Saturday, July 29.

The Saratoga Race Course Guide provides all the information you need, whether you are a first-time track goer looking for the basics, or a life-long veteran looking for what’s new this year. The biggest and richest races of the summer at Saratoga are listed below. Let the races begin!

Sat., July 22 – Diana (G1), 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares on the turf – $500,000
Sat., July 29 – Jim Dandy (G2), 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds – $600,000                                                                                                                                                     Sat., July 29 – Vanderbilt (G1) 6 furlongs for 3-year-olds & up – $350,000
Sat., Aug. 5 – The Longines Test (G1), 7 furlongs for 3-year-old fillies – $500,000
Sat., Aug. 5 – The Whitney (G1), 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds & up – $1,200,000
Sat., Aug. 12 – Fourstardave Handicap (G1), 1 mile on the turf for 3-year-olds & up – $500,000
Sat, Aug. 19 – Alabama (G1), 1 ¼ mile for 3-year-old fillies – $600,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – Forego (G1), 7 furlongs for 3-year-olds and up – $600,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1), 7 furlongs for 3-year-olds – $500,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – Ketel One Ballerina (G1), 7 furlongs for fillies & mares 3-year-olds & up – $500,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – Personal Ensign (G1), 1 1/8 miles for fillies & mares 3-year-olds & up – $700,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – Sword Dance (G1), 1 ½ miles on turf for 3-year-olds & up – $1,000,000
Sat., Aug. 26 – Travers (G1), 1 ¼ miles for 3-year-olds – $1,250,000
Sat., Sept. 2 – Woodward (G1), 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds & up – $750,000                                                                                                                                         Sat., Sept 2 – Spinaway (G1), 7 furlongs for 2-year-old fillies – $350,000
Mon., Sept. 4 – Hopeful (G1), 7 furlongs for 2-year-olds – $350,000

Handicapping the Indiana Derby

Indiana Derby Favorite Irap May Not be so Handsome

The $500,000 Indiana Derby is set for Saturday, and it’s time to pick a winner. The Derby is race 9 and the last of six stakes on a strong 10-race program that includes the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G3) in race 8. While the American Graded Stakes Committee dropped both the Derby and Oaks to Grade 3’s this year, they still drew solid fields of 11 and 8 horses respectively.

Trainer Doug O’Neill saddles the favorite in both races for 3-year-olds with Mopotism (7-5) breaking from the outside post in the Oaks and Irap (8-5) drawing the No. 2 post in the Derby. O’Neill also trains the favorite in the Warrior Veterans Stakes, Gangster (5-2). O’Neill’s go to jockey Mario Gutierrez will ride all three favorites.

Have Fun betting Indiana Derby and All Stakes Pick Four

No Derby runners have more than two wins in their careers, but Irap is the lone millionaire having broke through for his maiden win in the Blue Grass Stakes to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, where he finished up the track in 18th place. But a victory in the Ohio Derby in late June when he finished well clear of Steve Asmussen-trained Untrapped (6-1) should have the Tiznow colt drawing plenty action as the favorite. Irap is the proven horse and best horse in the field, but will offer little value when wagering.

Awesome Saturday (8-1) is an up and comer for trainer Bret Calhoun who tries stakes company for the first time. He’s raced five times, all this year, and finished in the money each time with a pair of wins. His last race in June was an impressive 3-length win at this distance over Watch Me Whip (10-1), who drew the outside post for trainer Dale Romans. Brian Hernandez, Jr. has ridden Awesome Saturday in all his starts, and figures to be cashing in again Saturday night with a breakthrough win pushing the pace not too far-fetched.

Untrapped was 3rd behind Irap in the Ohio Derby, and while the cutback in distance may help him, the others mentioned including Hollywood Handsome (8-1) seem to be better shots. Hollywood Handsome fired a 5 furlong bullet work of 23 at the distance on July 3 and then breezed easy again for trainer Dallas Stewart on July 9 at Churchill. He should rebound well off his DNF performance in the Belmont when Florent Geroux was removed from the irons and did not finish. He was 4th in the Louisiana Derby in April, but the impressive performance was his allowance win when he won at this distance on the front end with a fast pace. Must include if you’re looking for a long shot winner and a score in your horizontal wagers.

The Derby is the cashing leg in an all-stakes pick four, and post time Saturday night is 9:49 ET.

Ohio Derby Preview

Girvin is Favorite in Field of 9 for $500,000 Ohio Derby

Saturday’s Grade 3 Ohio Derby is the richest race in the U.S. over the weekend just outside Cleveland. Nine 3-year-olds are ready to run 9 furlongs over the main track at JACK Thisledown, and the $500,000 purse ensures a big payday.

Girvin winning Louisiana Derby

Girvin is the 2-1 favorite and the multiple graded stakes winner had his biggest score when winning the $1 million Louisiana Derby in April.  He followed with a 13th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, as he wasn’t fully healthy with a hoof crack and also had a troubled trip under Mike Smith that included being sharply steadied along the far turn. Smith rides Girvin for the second time, and the Joe Sharp-trained colt has 3 wins and a second in five starts, and he worked a 5 furlong bullet in 1:00.00 at Churchill Downs June 17.

Irap (3-1) is the Tiznow colt who surprised everyone winning the Blue Grass Stakes at 31-1 odds. He beat four Derby runners that day at Keeneland on a deep track, and then was another big long shot who suffered a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby. Irap is expected to be near the leaders breaking from the rail with Julien Leparoux looking for a similar Blue Grass trip.

Untrapped (9-2) has just one win in seven starts and was 2nd behind Girvin in the Risen Star (G3) in February at identical 8-1 odds. He finished just in front of Girvin in the Kentucky Derby after a 6th place finish in the Arkansas Derby when Smith rode him. Ricardo Santana, Jr. was up in the Risen Star and Derby, and takes over again here for trainer Steve Asmussen. A stalking trip near mid pack hoping for plenty of speed up front and a late burst.

Fast and Accurate (8-1) is the fourth and final Kentucky Derby runner in this field who faded badly to finish 18th in Louisville. He’s expected to set the pace in Ohio like he did in his recent start May 27 in the Arlington Classic (G3) on the turf. He folded up in the stretch to finish 4th, and Mike Maker’s colt will have a tough time holding off stronger runners at 9 furlongs.

Sorry Erik (6-1) is trained and ridden by the Desormeaux brothers and is 2-0for-5 this year with a 5th in the Louisiana Derby and 7th in the Risen Star, both as a huge long shot. He needs a very fast pace to run into, which he got in his recent allowance race at Santa Anita when he rallied from last to finish second.

Game Over (12-1), Talk Less (12-1), Vibe (12-1) and Hinton (20-1), who is 3-for-4 and moves up sharply in class, complete the field as longer shots.

The Ohio Derby is Race 8 on Saturday, June 24 with post time for the 1 1/8 mile race at 5:30 ET.

 

Penn Mile Preview

Competitive Field of 10 Set for $500,000 Penn Mile Stakes

One of the biggest races of the weekend to break from the gate June 3rd is the $500,000 Penn Mile. The 5th running of the Grade II race is on the turf at Penn National Race Course with 10 fairly accomplished 3-year-olds lined up in a very competitively priced race. Eight of the runners were stakes-placed in their most recent race, and three trainer’s saddle of pair of horses – Mike Maker, Todd Pletcher and George Weaver.

The favorite Big Score (5-2) and Cistron (6-1) ship in from Southern California to challenge Frostmourne (3-1), who breaks from the outside. Frostmourne had a pair of wins last year and was runner-up in his 3-year-old debut in the Woodhaven Stakes following a lengthy layoff. He posted his best Equibase Speed Figure (ESF) of 102 in that race. Big Score also had his best ESF (108) in his last race, a 3rd place finish in the American Turf Stakes. He won the Transylvania Stakes (G3) in April at Keeneland with a 107 ESF and is the only horse in the field with a graded-stakes win. Multiple Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano rides him for the third-straight time. Castellano has owned Penn National, winning 9 of 17 stakes races at the track.

Time To Travel (8-1) makes his turf debut but is expected to make a good move on the surface. He posted a 102 ESF in an April sprint and finished 2nd in the Sir Barton Stakes in his most recent race.

Bronson (4-1) and Bonus Points (8-1) are the pair for Pletcher, and Bronson won the English Channel last month while Bonus Points captured the Parx Derby on the main track. Mo Maverick (8-1) is expected to push the pace, while Prize Fight (8-1) and Shiraz (8-1).  Holiday Stone (12-1) is the long shot in the field, but he was a close 2nd to Big Score in the Transylvania and posted a strong 106 EFS.

The field and post position with best Equibase Speed Figure in parentheses.

  1. Shiraz (94)
  2. Bonus Points (90)
  3. Prize Fight (89)
  4. Bronson (99)
  5. Time To Travel (102)
  6. Cistron (100)
  7. Mo Maverick (99)
  8. Holiday Stone (106)
  9. Big Score (108)
  10. Frostmourne (102)

The Penn Mile is Race 9 on Saturday, June 3 and is preceded by the $200,000 Mountain View Stakes (1 1/8 miles), $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup (5 furlongs turf), $200,000 Penn Oaks (1 mile turf), $100,000 Danzig Stakes (6 furlongs), $100,000 Lyphard Stakes (1 1/16 miles turf) and $100,000 New Start Stakes (6 furlongs).

Always Dreaming Arrives at Pimlico for Preakness

Preakness Stakes Preparations begin for Derby Winner Always Dreaming

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming came out of the race well, and trainer Todd Pletcher is shipping him to Pimlico this morning in pursuit of Preakness victory for the second jewel of the Triple Crown. A group of what is locally known as “new shooters” will take their run at the Derby champ, along with some familiar foes from the Kentucky Derby.

Jockey John Velazquez, atop Always Dreaming #5, celebrates with trainer Todd Pletcher after winning the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

The early shipping is to provide a peaceful environment for the colt who proved a headstrong handful while training at Churchill Downs. The trainer has decided to give the champion almost two weeks to adjust to Pimlico. Pletcher said Always Dreaming will gallop daily at Pimlico rather than a harder, timed workout.

“Looking at what the options are, at Pimlico, there’s generally not a lot of horses training there,” Pletcher said Sunday following his Derby dream with Always Dreaming. “I think it will be a quiet environment, give us time to get him settled in and if we have to make any adjustments we’ll have time to do that.”

Always Dreaming ran through a wet and soggy track to win the Kentucky Derby by 2 3/4 lengths on Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez their second victories in the race but their first together. Pletcher was excited and impressed with Always Dreaming’s Run for the Roses, and also impressed with how his Bodemeister colt came out of the race.

“So far I’ve been amazed at how well he came out of the race,” said Pletcher at Churchill Downs Monday morning before taking a scheduled flight to New York later in the day. “His energy level is great. He walked the shedrow with a purpose this morning, ate all his dinner last night. Really, really pleased with the way he’s come out of it so far.”

Pimlico officials said as many as three other Derby competitors are potentially in for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown — runner-up Lookin At Lee; Classic Empire, who finished fourth; and Gunnevera, who was seventh.

Plenty of “new shooters” will fire in the Preakness at Pimlico.  Among them: Royal Mo, who just missed drawing into the Derby field; Conquest Mo Money, second in the Arkansas Derby, Lexington Stakes winner Senior Investment; Illinois Derby winner Multiplier and Wood Memorial third Cloud Computing.

Irish trainer Aidan O”Brien has nominated two horses to the Preakness including Lancaster Bomber. That horse was second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, fourth in the UAE Derby on the Meydan dirt and a good fourth, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths by some excellent Irish, English and French 3-year-olds in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

 

Belmont Spring/Summer Meet Starts April 28

Belmont Park 54-Day Spring/Summer Meet Filled with 62 Stakes Races and Many Activities

Racing returns to Belmont Park April 28 for its 54-day Spring/Summer meet. The three-day opening weekend is highlighted by the $100,000 Affirmed Success for New York-bred sprinters on Friday followed by a pair of turf stakes in the $150,000 Elusive Quality on Saturday, April 29, and the $150,000 License Fee on Sunday, April 30.

The three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will begin on Thursday, June 8 and conclude on Saturday, June 10 with 18 stakes races contested over the course of the Festival. Highlighting the Racing Festival is the 149th running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes. The Belmont Stakes Draw scheduled for Wednesday, June 7 at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.

A total of 62 stakes races are scheduled during the Belmont Spring/Summer meet.

In addition, Belmont Park’s 2017 spring/summer meet activities include:

  • Dates: Friday, April 28 through Sunday, July 16
  • First Post Time: 1:30 p.m. EDT, gates open at 11:30 a.m. – except Kentucky Derby and Preakness Day, the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and “Party at the Park” twilight racing.

Kentucky Derby Day:

  • Saturday, May 6 – College Day; commemorative Triple Crown clock giveaway; “Boot, Scoot, & Derby”; and family fun activities

Belmont Stakes Racing Festival:

  • Wednesday, June 7, Belmont Stakes Draw – Rockefeller Center in Manhattan
  • Thursday, June 8-live racing begins with
  • Friday, June 9 – food trucks, Taste NY, and live entertainment; live-money high-roller handicapping tournament (Day 1)
  • Saturday, June 10, Belmont Stakes Day – food trucks, strolling performers, parachuters in the infield, and color guard presentation; jockey autograph signing, and live entertainment; live-money high-roller handicapping tournament (Day 2)

Stars & Stripes Racing Festival:

  • Saturday, July 8 – food trucks; giveaway

“Party at the Park” twilight racing:

  • Dates: Fridays, June 2, June 16, June 23, June 30 and July 7
  • First Post Time: 3:05 p.m. EDT

Breakfast at Belmont:

  • Mother’s Day weekend – Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May 14
  • Memorial Day weekend & Big Apple Showcase – Saturday, May 27 – Monday, May 29
  • Father’s Day weekend – Saturday, June 17 and Sunday, June 18
  • Stars & Stripes Festival weekend – Saturday, July 8 and Sunday, July 9
  • Time: 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
  • Admission and parking are free.

Illinois Derby Offers Preakness Potential for Contenders

Hawthorne Hosts $250,000 Illinois Derby

Saturday’s $250,000 Grade III Illinois Derby returns to Hawthorne Race Course after a 1-year hiatus as management secured its purse funding. While the race will not produce any Kentucky Derby entries, it is certainly one to watch for Preakness Stakes candidates.

Hawthorne management has moved the race to an evening time slot, and a credible and competitive seven-horse field will showcase some promising 3-year-olds looking to make the Preakness Stakes their next stop.

Hedge Fund (3-1) set the blistering pace before finishing 3rd in the Sunland Derby (G3) in New Mexico the end of March. The Super Saver colt trained by Todd Pletcher, who has won this race four times, will more likely be in stalking position behind Stand and Cheer (8-1) and perhaps St. Louis Guy (6-1) as the field turns for home in the 1 1/8 mile race.

It’s Your Nickel (6-1) won the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park and finished 6th in the Grade I Blue Grass at Keeneland just two weeks ago. He’s the only stakes winner in field, but none have won a graded race. The closer to watch is Hollywood Handsome (4-1), who rallied from last to finish 4th  Inthe Grade II Louisiana Derby, just 3 lengths back of Girvin, who tops the Kentucky Derby points list.

Mr. Misunderstood (7-2) can also close and he’s won three in a row and progressed in each race. Perhaps that’s why trainer Brad Cox, who wins at a 24% rate with shippers, has entered him here despite two of those wins coming over the turf at the Fair Grounds and the other on a sloppy track.

Multiplier (9-2) breaks from the rail and has speed, but the distance and step up are questions to be answered.

Watch the Illinois Derby with an eye towards the Preakness Stakes. Same with the main local prep for the Preakness when a small field of five enter the starting gate for Saturday’s $125,000 Federico Tessio Stakes at Laurel Park.

Race 5: April 22 Illinois Derby (G3) at Hawthorne Racecours, three-year-olds, one and one eighth miles on the dirt, post time 6:17pm CDT

Stanford and Imperative Duel Again in $1.25 Million Charles Town Classic

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.

Imperative Wins Head Bob over Stanford in Poseidon Stakes

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.