12/20/2010 1:46PM

Graded Charles Town Classic adds spice to $3M stakes schedule

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The Grade 3, $1 million Charles Town Classic, the first graded stakes in the 77-year history of the Charles Town Races, heads a lineup of 29 stakes worth $3 million in 2011.

The West Virginia track released nearly all of its stakes schedule for next season on Monday, with the focus on four event-themed nights between April and October, culminating with the 25th running of the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic program. The Breeders’ Classic card is penciled in for Oct. 15, but the races and purses will not be announced until later.

Not counting the Breeders’ Classic stakes, Charles Town will offer 16 added-money events for West Virginia-breds, worth a cumulative $800,000.

The 1 1/8-mile Charles Town Classic, upgraded to Grade 3 status for its third running, is the feature on the first big event night of the season on April 16. That card will include the $250,000 Sugar Maple for older fillies and mares, the $100,000 Blue and Gold for 3-year-olds, and two other restricted stakes, the Webb Snyder and the Confucius Say. The Webb Snyder, named for the jockey who rode during Charles Town’s inaugural meet in December 1933, took a $25,000 purse cut to $75,000. The Confucius Say, formerly the Springtime Handicap, was renamed in honor of one of the most popular horses to run at Charles Town earlier this decade and got a purse increase of $15,000 to $50,000.

Three other stakes formerly worth $100,000 – the Charles Town Dash, Lady Charles Town, and Miss Shenandoah – were reduced to $75,000.

In addition to the Charles Town Classic and West Virginia Breeders’ Classic cards, the other major events on the calendar are the fourth annual Charles Town Sprint Festival on June 18 and the Race for the Ribbon on Sept. 17.

The Sprint Festival is anchored by the $400,000 Red Legend, the richest dirt sprint for 3-year-olds in the country. The Charles Town Oaks, the richest sprint for 3-year-old fillies in the nation with a purse of $400,000, is the feature on Race for the Ribbon night.