Photo: Coady Photography
Many handicappers figured that either Game On Dude would
repeat as Classic champion or “wise guy” pick Long River would take this year’s
Charles Town Classic. That scenario did not come to be as Kent Desormeaux
aboard Imperative scored the major upset on a $55.00 winner.
In a race with a pace that was expected to be hot, the plot
unfolded just as expected as 3/5 post-time favorite Game On Dude, Moreno, and long shot Lucy’s Bob Boy all battled early for the lead. “I saw them leave like banshee
Indians,” noted winning jockey Kent Desormeaux. “That’s how Mike rides that
horse, he likes going fast. The faster he goes the better chance he has,” noted
Desormeaux of Mike Smith’s ride upon Game On Dude. The track had been playing
fast all night and winners were wiring the field race after race.
The jockeys, and fans, must have thought that the speed
would hold in this race as well. Game On Dude was expected to repeat as
champion. He grabbed the lead at the ¾ pole and in the minds of many folks
watching the champion would be crowned again.
However in this race the pace absolutely melted down! Suicidal
fractions of :23 2/5, :46 4/5, and 1:11 3/5 opened the door for a horse to come
from behind in this three-way battle. Even Long River attempted to make a bold move
at the ¾ pole, but he was never too far behind the blistering pace. Instead, 26-1
shot Imperative, son of the great Bernardini, came from behind and took the
lead at the top of the stretch never looking back.
Desormeaux noted of his ride, “Imperative just dragged me up
to them. The second turn, I was running over the top of them, pitched him out
and went even faster. I got to them, maybe his nose on their rump, and I slowed
him down and he got big breather from the three-eighths [pole] to inside the
quarter [pole], and by the time we got to the eighth pole I hadn't even asked
him yet. He was already passing them, and when I cued him, he just exploded. I
restrained him the first three-quarters [of a mile]. I actually had to slow him
down. I took a deep pull in the second turn and then once the horse that was
laying third got outrun, I pitched him into that spot and turned him loose.”
Interestingly, Imperative went from being claimed for
$50,000 on the second to last day at Hollywood Park, to a $1,500,000 Grade 2
winner in a matter of just four months!! "I liked his pedigree. He's by
Bernardini. It's hard to buy them at the sales. They're too expensive, so we
saw him being in for a tag for $50,000, so we just jumped on it, gave it a
shot. We saw the horse was running on the turf, the synthetic. So he never ran
on the dirt besides the 2-year-old thing that he did. We just got him because
of that, to run him on the dirt at Santa Anita. That's where I train. We got
lucky with it, I guess. We put blinkers and a figure eight on him and it worked
out perfect,” noted trainer George Papaprodromou.
On a cool and cloudless night, the conditions were perfect
for a great night of racing. The crew at Charles Town put together a great
card, and the big race did not disappoint.
My Dark Horse coverage of the races can be found
on my twitter account @GoDarkHorse!