04/08/2014 10:47AM

Dick Jerardi: Charles Town Classic stacking up to be a good showdown

Coady Photography
Game On Dude, outside, won the 2013 Charles Town Classic and will return on April 19 to defend that win.

The $1.5 million Charles Town Classic on April 19 is coming up fast. And there are going to be some really fast horses in the gate, making for one of the best fields of older horses assembled in 2014.

Defending race winner Game On Dude proved with his sensational Santa Anita Handicap win that he has more to give and more major races to win. The horse has won 16 of 31 lifetime, with career earnings of $6.1 million. I’m not sure the Dude can put up one of his giant Beyer Speed Figures due to the tighter turns at Charles Town, but he is still the horse to beat. And it may very well take one of his big performances to win.

Unlike last year, this will not be a one-horse race. Game On Dude will be challenged by Lea, one of the hottest horses in the country. That matchup alone will be worth seeing – the horse proven over the years against the horse who might be in the process of proving that he is good enough to beat anybody’s horse anywhere.

Add in Clubhouse Ride, Imperative, and Suns Out Guns Out as likely starters at the moment, and you have a very serious horse race as the centerpiece of perhaps the best card in Charles Town history.

Remembering Dickie Small

They can call the track Keystone, Philadelphia Park, or Parx Racing. They can run races there for the next million years, and they won’t ever have a race like the one Broad Brush ran to win when survival seemed unlikely and winning impossible.

Find that 1986 Pennsylvania Derby on YouTube and watch it again. You won’t believe it, even now.

Broad Brush was not all that interested in being told what to do. So, even as the horse was on his way to dominating the race, he decided he wanted to go straight at the head of the stretch instead of turning left.

Angel Cordero considered jumping off. He stayed on. Eventually, Broad Brush was coaxed into making that left turn and started to run again. The horse went from first to nearly last to first in about 300 yards – and eventually became a star, a tribute to his trainer’s understanding of animals and his belief in the horse.

We lost one very unique trainer when Dickie Small died. His work will live on through the records of his horses and a moment in time that nobody who was at the track that day will ever forget.

Twenty stakes wins for Ben’s Cat

Horses don’t win 20 races anymore. And horses definitely do not win 20 stakes. But Ben’s Cat actually has won 25 races and 20 stakes after taking the Mister Diz at Pimlico for the fifth consecutive year last Saturday. Expect much more to come in 2014 for the 8-year-old gelding trained by King Leatherbury.

“This is the best he has ever been coming back off his winter layoff,” said Avon Thorpe, Leatherbury’s assistant. “He is training better than ever before. I am expecting a really big year.”

Wise Mac on a roll

Wise Mac is stabled at Penn National and has been very hot at Charles Town. The 4-year-old West Virginia-bred has won three straight races against statebreds, winning his maiden and getting two allowance victories this year.

Wise Mac won by seven lengths, 5 3/4 lengths, and 2 1/2 lengths for trainer Murray Rojas. He hasn’t exactly been a bargain at the windows during the streak, going off at 1-10, 4-5, and 1-10 again.

◗ Trainer Jamie Stokes came into 2014 with fewer than 50 career wins in limited chances over seven years. This year, he already has 17 wins from just 56 starts, along with six seconds and seven thirds. At his current rate, he is going to double his career win total in one year.