#7 STANFORD – Call me crazy, but I think he’ll love running at this track. There is no doubt the Charles Town surface can favor speed, and Stanford should have enough to put himself in the perfect spot from his middle/outside post position. Even though he’s lost both of his come back races in 2016, it’s not like he’s been beaten by horses that aren’t very good. Blofeld and Tommy Macho both had to run big races to beat Stanford, and there is reason to think he’ll improve off those efforts with this being his third race off the layoff. With the right trip he should be tough to handle here.
#4 DONOWORTH – I’ll be the first to admit I was not a fan of his heading into the Santa Anita Handicap, but I do not hold his poor finish against him. In that race he had all kinds of trouble as his trip/ride was pretty much a joke. He gets an easier field here, and if he can show a little better turn of foot he’s in with a big chance. Must stay out of trouble this time.
#5 IMPERATIVE – He’s 3 for 30 lifetime, but one of those wins came right here in the Charles Town Classic in 2o14! In 2015 he came back to get second in the big race, so it’s obvious he loves the surface at this track. If not for that “home away from home track advantage” I’d probably have him in the throw out category, but if this horse beats you at this track you are going to feel pretty silly. Hard to believe who well he runs here…
#10 HARD ACES – When running a mile and one quarter I absolutely love this horse, but anything shorter I’m always a little concerned with for him. This one is at a mile and one eighth, and I’m more than a little concerned that his running style won’t be conducive to the track at Charles Town. From a class standpoint he fits in with these really well, so I think that makes him a good underneath play.
#9 PAGE McKENNY – This horse is kind of a hero in the Mid-Atlantic region, and did hit the board in this race at a great price one year ago. There is no reason to think he can’t do the same thing again this time as he comes into the race on a three race winning streak. I don’t have the guts to put him on top, but I do believe he will run very well in this spot.
#3 S’MAVERLOUS – The good news…he won the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at big odds by almost two lengths. The bad news…I HATED that race on paper and believe it was one of the weakest Grade 2’s I’ve seen in awhile. All that doesn’t add up as a strong win contender to me, even though he’s looks really good since going two turns. He’ll have to prove it to me again before I’m sold on him.
#6 INTERNATIONAL STAR – Much like S’marverlous…the good news is he ran pretty well in the New Orleans Handicap, but the bad news is that race was very weak on paper. His Fair Grounds meet started well when he won a small stakes, but he struggled to finish fourth and second in his next two races. I can’t support him at what will surely be low odds, and basically even if his odds were to float up I wouldn’t have much interest in backing him.
#8 LA MACCHINA – You have to put him in the “who knows” category because his resume and running lines are so spotty. With a top effort he can be sneaky in this spot, but he better be ready to fire as this field is tougher than what he’s faced so far this year. His race in the Essex Handicap is good enough to at least put him in the conversation. I like that jockey Channing Hill is sticking with him and riding in this spot.
#1 SONNY INSPIRED – Has ran pretty well in a few small stakes, but those races were around one turn so I’m unsure he’s ready for this spot. Has ran somewhat competitive with Page McKenny, but that isn’t enough to convince me he’s ready.
#2 CHARITABLE ANNUITY – He is the local hope in the race, but lets face it he’s about as outclass as you can get. Has lost in back to back conditioned allowance races at Charles Town coming into this one. Would be a complete shock. d