04/15/2014 11:08AM

Dick Jerardi: Charles Town Classic soars to high stature

Benoit & Associates
The presence of Game On Dude adds star power to the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic.

Saturday night’s $1.5 million Charles Town Classic lost a good one when Lea was declared out last week by Bill Mott, but any race that has Game On Dude is still quite serious. The Classic was designed to bridge a stakes gap for the best older horses between the Santa Anita Handicap and the major summer handicap races.

Two weeks before the Kentucky Derby, when all the major Derby preps are done, is perfect timing to get some attention for your race and your race track. And Charles Town management has certainly done that with a huge purse and what promises to be a great card of racing culminating with Game On Dude trying to defend his title.

The Charles Town Classic is being run for just the sixth time, but sometimes you make your own tradition. This race is doing that, attracting Game On Dude and his trainer, Bob Baffert, for the third time. The first two Classics were won by local hero Researcher. The race quickly went national. When your purse is the richest for older horses outside of the Breeders’ Cup, you will get participation and you will get stars.

The $200,000 Sugar Maple is the major undercard stakes, but there will be four other stakes worth a combined $250,000.

Alex Inc injured

After Alex Inc won a first-level allowance on Feb. 25 at Parx by 11 1/2 lengths, trainer Butch Reid was thinking Wood Memorial.

And why not? Alex Inc, a Pennsylvania-bred son of 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, got a 102 Beyer in just his second two-turn start. In his five races for Reid starting in November, the horse had three seconds and two wins, his Beyers going from 72 to 74 to 77 to 88 to 102.

Alas, Alex Inc came out of the race with an injury and, according to Reid, will need the summer off. Remember the name. Alex Inc could be a good one.

The Magee factor

Keiron Magee ended up in a four-way tie for the Laurel Park winter meet training title with 19 winners. That would be an accomplishment under any circumstance, but this was not any circumstance. Magee got his 19 winners from 63 starters, a cool 30-percent strike rate. The other trainers with 19 winners were: Juan Vasquez (122 starters), Hugh McMahon (107), and Claudio Gonzalez (93). Now, that is an accomplishment.

Magee did not stop winning when the racing shifted from Laurel to Pimlico. He is atop the standings after a 7-for-17 start at the meet, a cool 41 percent. Magee had his best year in 2013, with 49 winners. He looks to beat that number by many in 2014.

Last Sunday at Pimlico, Magee sent out the 7-year-old mare Regal Nurse to get her 20th career win. First-time claim Doubleblackdiamond then won the finale by 13 3/4 lengths, ending a fairly typical perfect Magee day these days.

“I am thrilled,” Magee said. “The last week at Laurel we didn’t run much because I was looking forward to this meet. This is my home. I couldn’t be happier. The horses are running really well.”

Scorching at Charles Town

Trainer Kevin Patterson has started 49 horses at Charles Town in 2014. Only 11 have not finished in the money. He has 21 wins (43 percent), 12 seconds, and five thirds, for a crazy in the money rate of 78 percent.

Meanwhile, Jose Montano (49) and J.D. Acosta (47) are one-two in the jockeys’ race while Jeff Runco and Ronney Brown are in a dead heat atop the trainers’ race with 36 winners.

◗ Trainers Scott Lake, Ramon Moya, Craig Miller, and Dona Albright have combined to go 21 for 59 (36 percent) so far this year at Penn National. David Cora (33) and William Otero (32) are head and head for leading rider through 30 percent of the season.