A full field of ten runners, including multiple former champions of the race, will take to the gate this Saturday for the Charles Town Classic (G2). The 1 1/8 miles race has drawn a solid field in what looks to be an ultra-competitive race. West Virginia’s most lucrative race highlights a card that includes eight stakes with total purses for the day falling just short of $1.6 million. Post time for the first race on the card is 12:30 PM EST, with the Charles Town Classic scheduled for 5:37 PM EST.
Defending champion Something Awesome will try to make it two in a row for trainer Jose Corrales as he attempts to duplicate Researcher’s feat of winning the race back to back in 2009 and 2010. Since Researcher’s win 9 years ago, Duke of Mischief (2012), Caixa Eletronica (2013), Game on Dude (2014), Imperative (2015) and Stanford (2017) have all tried and failed in their attempt to win the Charles Town Classic in consecutive years. Edgar Prado will have the mount aboard Something Awesome.
The Jorge Navarro trained War Story has nearly won this race two years in a row, losing by a half-length in the 2017 edition of the Charles Town Classic and a neck in last year’s running. Over the course of his career, the seven-year-old gelding hasn’t missed many big dances, running in 23 graded stakes including three Breeders’ Cups, a pair of Pegasus World Cup’s, and the 2015 Kentucky Derby (G1). However, after a dull effort in the Marathon Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs in November, trainer Jorge Navarro gave the durable War Story something he hadn’t had since the end of his three-year-old campaign – some extended time off.
“This is the first real break he’s had since I started training him, and there’s no doubt that the break has done him good. He’s been training really, really well and we know he obviously likes the track.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out the Grade 1 placed Rally Cry for the race in hopes of landing his second victory in the Charles Town Classic. Pletcher previously saddled Stanford to a win in 2016. Off since a fourth-place finish in the Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, Rally Cry will be making his first start of the season. Pletcher still seems to believe in Rally Cry coming into this race.
“Rally Cry has always impressed us with his physical presence and training,” said Pletcher. “We feel like he will run well off the bench and think he will handle the track.”
The full field from the rail out includes: Mongolian Groom, Nanoosh, Diamond King, Rally Cry, Imperative, Discreet Lover, Something Awesome, Runnin’toluvya, War Story, Unbridled Juan, and Bobby G.
#3 Diamond King – After a solid 2018 season, this colt made his 4-year-old debut a winning one last time out against allowance company at Gulfstream Park. That win showed that he has developed in a big way from 3 to 4, which is what you want to see out of a horse coming into a big race. Inside speed is very good at Charles Town, giving Diamond King a big advantage as he is likely to go to the lead right out of the gate. He got better and better during his 3-year-old year and looks to have taken another step forward this year. That could make him a handful in this spot.
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#9 War Story – We’ll see if the third time is a charm for War Story as it was for stablemate X Y Jet a month ago when he took the Golden Shaheen (G1) in Dubai. War Story has been extremely close to winning this race the last two seasons, coming up a half-length and a neck short. Today, he faces another field he matches up well with, despite running off the layoff for this contest. Trainer Jorge Navarro will have him ready to run, which makes him dangerous, especially considering he hasn’t taken time off in a long time.
#1 Mongolian Groom – After a couple of nice efforts at Santa Anita, his connections decided to give this race a shot, which makes sense from a class perspective. The race is worth $1,000,000; however, it has not drawn a field filled with monsters. Last time out he faced much tougher in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) where he was third to Gift Box and McKinzie. Both of those horses would be huge favorites if they were entered in this race, which makes Mongolian Groom a logical contender for the win.
#4 Rally Cry – Trainer Todd Pletcher seems confident that this horse will fire off the bench and the horse’s workouts seem to show that he is ready to run. When last seen, the horse was fourth against much tougher company in the Woodward Stakes (G1). He was only beaten 3-lengths in that race, which shows his class level. These connections must be respected at a track like Charles Town. This is a dangerous horse if he is indeed primed for a big effort off the bench.
#7 Something Awesome – Last year’s winner must be shown respect once again this season despite finishing tenth in his last two starts. There is no doubt he was outclassed in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) two races back; however, last time out he should have been much better in the General George Stakes (G3) at Laurel Park. He stretches back in distance for this one, though, which will make a big difference. He’s a player amongst this competitive group.
#6 Discreet Lover – This is a horse that always shows up with an honest effort. He was known for hitting the board in big races at even bigger odds before he took home the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) two races back at Belmont Park. This will be his first start of the season after an eighth-place finish last year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) to round out his campaign. He might need one to get his legs under him; however, you can expect him to show up with a solid effort.
#2 Nanoosh – The trainer switch to Jorge Navarro makes this horse mildly dangerous today. His workouts since changing barns have been stellar and he has a few smaller stakes wins on his resume. The jump up in class is the major question mark, though, as he has not done well facing tougher in his last two starts at Oaklawn Park.
#8 Runnin’toluvya – There is no doubt this West Virginia bred will serve as the wild card of the race. After winning seven of his last eight starts he’ll take his shot at the biggest race in his home state while moving up in class in a major way. His wins at Charles Town have been impressive this year, which can be a big advantage with this being a very unique track. If he can get out in front, this will be the horse that they all have to catch.
#5 Imperative – The two-time winner of this race is back again this year. He always seems to run well at this track; however, he has really struggled in his last few races. He’ll need a major turn around in form to make an impact today.
#10 Unbridled Juan – This horse has had various amounts of success in smaller stakes events; however, this type of class seems to be where he falters. The hard-knocker will likely show up with a solid effort but his talent level may not be good enough to win a race of this magnitude.
#11 Bobby G – This would be his first try at stakes company if he draws into the race. He is currently on the Also Eligible list, so he will need some luck to run in this spot. If he does, he will likely be overmatched.