04/15/2014 12:08PM

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.

Ben Maguire More than 1 year ago
Charles town has come a long way in the past forty some years. It has been forty years ago this week that we lost a up and coming rider in jockey Thomas Maguire who lost his life in a car accident going from Laurel race course to Charles town .
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
The fact that CT can put on a race of this magnitude is a tribute to slots and their impact on the CT area economy. Just incredible. On the other hand it saddens me that the MJC and Frank Stronach fumbled the ball when they didn't put up the good faith money during Maryland's casino bidding process. This race could have been theirs along with a lot more.
Dusty Nathan More than 1 year ago
Game On Dude and any other Grade 1 types who face him make it a "big league" race. You can run the race at Santa Anita or in Dubai. Put up the money and it's a B-I-G race. The fact that NYRA, Pimlico and CD haven't put up money - current top money - for our big three T-bred races says a lot more about there paradigm of stashing the cash for themselves than it does about Charles Town putting up $1.5 million.
B More than 1 year ago
I don't care how much money they put up, it still doesn't seem like a big league race to me. I think Game on Dude has certainly done enough to only be running in the most prestigious races and this isn't one of them.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Sometimes 60% of a 1.5 million purse softens the blow of a lack of "prestige" don't you think? As in it's about the moolah especially for a gelding??
Old timer More than 1 year ago
No kidding! At $900,000 to the winner, it is very easy to understand Baffert's love of this race on the calendar. Unfortunately the Dude came up just a bit short. Even second money was well worth the trip!
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
High Stature? Charles Town Classic, Sunland Derby!! yeah right.... What happen to the Suburban Handicap, Brooklyn Handicap, Pimlico Special..... what happened to this great sport? oh yeah these sprinters can barely run a mile... my bad....
Randy Brill More than 1 year ago
Game on dude can run all day long Michael. It's a great card of racing and the slots have made the purses high so keep your negative comments to yourself yankee!
mikey More than 1 year ago
do you even read what you just posted? this industry is on welfare from the slots/casino...without the welfare checks from it's biggest competitor this breeding industry be lucky to still have a dozen tracks open.... the problem is the people who just won't admit the truth.....
mikey More than 1 year ago
people who is on fantasy land like this industry is thriving is biggest reason this industyr continue to circle the drain......
Ann More than 1 year ago
The Pimlico Special was killed years ago, after mismanagement of the Maryland tracks left the stakes list in competition with the local horsemen, who found the overnight purses meager and not enough to stay in business. The NYRA has gutted its schedule for older horses over the years. 9f, 9f, 8.5f, 9f.., Even the storied Suburban was cut to 9f, like the Woodward. (Even so, it has always been run in the summer.) In the spring, there used to be the G2 10f John B. Campbell at Bowie, but that's been demoted as well. The Brooklyn actually WAS traditionally 9f, at Aqueduct's summer meet, then it was extended to 12f to use the whole Belmont track (won by some nice horses, too); then cut to 9f again, then back to 12f as a BC Marathon prep.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Make your own tradition"? Well, I guess you could say that. Yes, I am one of those "old people" who doesn't think you run "classics" at a bullring. Then again, we're dying off....and opinions differ.
Bugsy Anderson More than 1 year ago
This kinda race isnt good for the sport. 1.5 mill and a monster races, so Lea is the only name that cared to face GOD but got sick. Racing needs rivalries and big names to create a story line. There is no storyline to sell when horses with a rep dodge each other all year. When was the last non Breeders Cup race or Triple Crown race to feature 5 or 6 Grade 1 winners?
Walter More than 1 year ago
The SA handicap was a great match up this year. Something we haven't seen in a long time in a non BC race. But you are pretty accurate in your comment
Dusty Nathan More than 1 year ago
Anything is good for this sport. Look around. See anybody in the stands?
Shawn Britton More than 1 year ago
Paid workout for dude, no lea
Hadrian Marcus More than 1 year ago
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
So Lea is out and the Dude becomes odds on again. I am so bitterly disappointed because Lea brought real competition to the race. The Donn winner Vs the Big Cap winner. Now this is a no-win situation for Dude. If he wins, the east coast haters will say who did he beat just like last year and if he is upset boy will they have a field day. I still don't understand what's wrong with a $1mil first prize and why the top horses skip it..if Mott chose to skip, I'm sure there must be a great reason because he may be in my opinion the best trainer in America and on his barn the horse ALWAYS comes first. But no MMM, WTC, PM, Revolutiomary etc. you'd think someone better than Moreno would try it. But guess not and here's another $million for your bank Mr Torre & company.
tim blake More than 1 year ago
I don't think it's really a 'no-win situation' when one of your options is to easily win $1M and the downside is that some people will still criticize you. Most people would call that a 'win' situation.
G More than 1 year ago
MMM has not worked since 3/2, so he may have some issue. WTC and Revolutionary just ran in the Oaklawn handicap, Mott withdrew Lea due to a fever this week. Moreno worked yesterday at Keeneland, so maybe they will run him this race. Dude had competition last year that didn't run well in two graded stakes winners and also the prior year. Its like you said, not Dude's or his connections fault that the tough competition doesn't show up.
Randy Brill More than 1 year ago
Revolutionary could never get a mile and a quarter and hasnt won squat . lmfao !
Ann More than 1 year ago
With colts and stallions, the connections are paranoid that being handy enough to win at a bullring would 'tarnish' the reputation of their stud prospect. Big, gallumping sorts like MMM and WTC aren't going to find tight corners with short stretches to their liking anyway. When you have a gelding, though, just go for the money.
Ron Rios More than 1 year ago
I don't get the article either, why do we constantly call it a good race when no one is racing, what if my Flyers decided to skip the games in NY since they can;t win there, instead opted to play a team out of the playoffs, would we applaud them for that…. I know its not dude;s fault, but really this 1/9 favorite shouldn't call it a race but rather a warm-up
G More than 1 year ago
Last year you had graded stakes winners run against Game On Dude in this race and he won in a hard battle while racing with plastic shoes. He beat Ron the greek, caixa electronica and clubhouse ride followed him their for another chase. CT has attracted competitors but not what the bettors have hoped for apparently.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
G. Great point. I think it's the nature of horse players. Nothing will ever satisfy... maybe it's like gambling. The big prize is almost never attainable hence the kvetching and gumpiness of the general gambling populace. ;-))