04/02/2013 1:15PM

Dick Jerardi: Charles Town Classic, with $1 million prize to winner, luring top runners

Shigeki Kikkawa
Game On Dude, the runner-up in the 2011 Charles Town Classic, is scheduled to take another crack at the race April 20.

It is one thing to put a $1 million stakes race on your calendar. It is another to make that race worth $1 million to the winner. That is what they have done with the now $1.5 million Charles Town Classic, scheduled for its fifth running April 20.

“Last year, we filled the gate with graded winners,” said Erich Zimny, vice president of racing operations for Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. “There wasn’t a single Grade 1 winner amongst them. We felt for the race to take the next step it needed to, that we had to do something to lure the cream of the crop of the division. And that’s when we made the call to bump up the purse and give the flat million to the winner – [it] might be more appealing to those types of horses.”

The CT Classic had drawn progressively stronger fields each year. This promises to be the strongest yet, with Game On Dude scheduled to ship east for the race.

Game On Dude was second in the 2011 CT Classic before going on to dominate Southern California handicap racing last year and turning in two of the best performances anywhere in the country so far in 2013, when he won the San Antonio Stakes and the Santa Anita Handicap. If he does come, the Classic will get a horse who has won more than $3.7 million and five Grade 1 stakes.

Local star Researcher won the first two Classics. In 2011, Duke of Mischief won it, but three of the horses he beat – Game On Dude, Tizway, and Acclamation – were the finalists for champion older horse honors that year.

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Todd Pletcher shipped in Caixa Eletronica to win the 2012 Classic, and the horse is scheduled to defend his crown. But there is no doubt that Game On Dude would be the star attraction.

“It’s a different horse than was here two years ago,” Zimny said. “We frankly have had some good horses, but never a horse coming in with this type of r é sum é and this stature off a win like he’s coming off of, which was just incredible. I would expect the place to be jammed.”

Game On Dude won the San Antonio by 6 1/2 lengths and the Big Cap by 7 3/4 lengths, earning Beyer Speed Figures of 116 and 117.

The CT Classic was run in 2011 as a Grade 3 race, the first graded event in the 77-year history of the West Virginia track. It became a Grade 2 for 2012.

Did Zimny ever think the race would come this far, this fast?

“Honestly, we thought it was a good game plan,” he said. “We were confident in the spot that we had chosen being a good one on the calendar for a major race like this. But I’d be lying if I said in the third year of the race we thought we’d get the three Eclipse finalists for older male.”

Ortiz, McMahon win Laurel titles

Apprentice rider Yomar Ortiz took the jockey title at the 50-day Laurel Park winter meet, which ended Saturday. Ortiz, 21, won 57 races, six more than fellow apprentice Trevor McCarthy, who finished second.

Ortiz won races for 19 different trainers, including 16 for Hugh McMahon. That former jockey and Scott Lake assistant topped the trainer standings with 34 winners, 17 more than Mike Trombetta and Juan Vazquez. He won with 32 percent of his starters.

Hello Lover wins Parx awards

Hello Lover, the 7-year-old gelding, was named 2012 champion older horse, best claim, and Horse of the Year at Parx Racing during the track’s annual awards banquet March 20. Claimed for $7,500 on Jan. 3, 2012, by Butch Reid for Kasey K Racing Stable, Hello Lover subsequently made 16 starts, with 8 wins, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds for earnings of almost $300,000.

The nearly all-white horse became a fan favorite because he was so recognizable and because he often looked hopelessly beaten before rallying to win.

She’s Ordained hot at Penn National

It’s still early in the year, but She’s Ordained, a 4-year-old filly, is off to a terrific start. Claimed for $7,500 by trainer Tim Kreiser for owner Ronald Ulrich on Nov. 29, she won three weeks later and has already earned $44,000 in three starts this year.

She was second in a first-level allowance, followed by a six-length win at that level and a 12-length win in an optional claimer. She earned the three best Beyers of her career in those races, a 78, an 84, and an 80.

John More than 1 year ago
Maybe we can somehow reinvent General Custer and run the Indians out of California and finally get slots here . Its INSANITY how "GovAhnold" gave the Indians carte blanche and a total monopoly on slots in Califoirnia . Geez, "Ahnold" how much did they pad your pockets ? Lets the voters decide, slots or no slots, if the Indians dont like it, tough beans Tonto !
John More than 1 year ago
There is a horse cominbg east from the west coast, who loves the tight turns like at Charles Town ! You heard it here first, dont discount Clubhouse Ride, his biggest win was at Pomona, and he showed he is back in form with the 2nd to Game on Dude . If the Dude, stubles a little bit, save with the "Ride"
Forego137 More than 1 year ago
History dictates when the money is laid out expect Mr. Baffert to be there and most likely he will come home with the W and the money. You can go to the window with that free advise and bring your rake to rake in your winnings. $$$$$$$$$
Jack More than 1 year ago
he will be 2-5
Chad Wilson More than 1 year ago
I am glad if Charles Town wants to offer a big purse race they do it for older horses. Seems every other small trackwith new slot money wants to find a way to offer a Derby Prep of some kind. I think if more tracks thru all these big purses at the older Handicap division instead of a high purse Grade III trying to tie into the Derby, might help keep more horses around longer. I mean would we really miss the Sunland Park and Delta Downs high purse race on the pre-derby schedule? More fans would show up to watch Game on Dude, Mucho Macho Man, or Fort Larned in my opinion, than the third string horse from Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, or Doug O'Neil's barn.
W.G. More than 1 year ago
Yes, and two years ago, this actually was the top race of the year for older horses (why it so quickly rose to Grade 2 status). The CT Classic has a chance of becoming a Grade 1 very quickly if it continues to attract top older horses with the added dimension of it being a tough race to get into because they are limited to 10 starters. Only thing I would change is run it at 1 1/4 Miles, which would give them a longer run to the first turn.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Where are they getting the money for this purse anyhow? Let me guess...slots?
Hadrian Marcus More than 1 year ago
Good to see other states recognized for quality races.....too many graded races concentrated in Kentucky and New York.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Nice to see the reference to the Marshfield Fair which was a 4 furlong track. The turns were tight but the real difference is the lack of a straight away. They had a 5 F chute where you would run to the wire, take a left at the Ferris Wheel while banking uphill, straighten out for the downhill run by the 4-H chicken coops and then out towards the pine trees and that far turn. You could park in the infield and watch then go around all day while placing a good wager. Some pretty good geldings would show up every year and roll right home. They never ran on Sunday so it was 8 racing days and you could enter a horse 3 times. A "Marshfield Triple" was a thing of beauty. (3 for 3). And as we always used to say, "the money is just as green." 1.5 Mil should get anyone's attention and if you don't understand - just chill.
Leslie Burke Fernandes More than 1 year ago
marshfield fair was the best bullring racing in the world --i use to take 10 days off in august and make about 7 to 12 large every year.
Dave More than 1 year ago
I'm still floored that they're shipping Game on Dude for THIS race.
Brandon Layer More than 1 year ago
This race won't get a better field than the $400k N.O. Handicap did or a better field than the $300k Alysheba will. Sometimes its not all about the money. Last year Successful Dan, Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man skipped the CTC in favor of the Alysheba on Oaks day.
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
That was last year...99% of the time it is about The Money...
matt More than 1 year ago
With Game On Dude coming in for the party, how deep do you think the field is going to be? I'll bet the Alysheba will still draw a more competive field than the rodeo.
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
Reel Deep...One Hell of a field coming for this party!!!...Stay Tuned...
Perl More than 1 year ago
Good point. This race probably doesn't have any more prestige than the Alysheba. I suspect at least part of the reason the Alyshebe gets as good or better a field is that the connections would much rather hang out at CD than Charlie Town. Especially on Derby weekend.