Because of its bullring configuration, Charles Town is not the easiest racetrack to attack for unfamiliar bettors. Regardless, they offer a strong card Friday, highlighted by the Grade 2, $800,000 Charles Town Classic for older horses.
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Here are some thoughts on those three Friday night races at Charles Town.
Charles Town Race 9: $150,000 Robert Hilton Memorial Stakes
Swill looks ready to start the next stage of his career as a stakes sprinter.
After some poor attempts on the Derby trail for trainer Brad Cox, Swill went on the shelf and made his return in a seven-furlong allowance sprint at Ellis Park on June 27. He won by seven lengths with a career-high 110 TimeformUS Speed Figure.
Now, Swill must navigate the rail and multiple turns of Charles Town. If he handles this quirky racetrack though, he should prove tough to beat after the final turn.
Moonlite Strike also deserves consideration as the likely pacesetter with some ability. He exits a third-place finish in the Jersey Shore Stakes at Monmouth earlier this month and also ran third in the Carry Back Stakes at Gulfstream Park in July. For the latter third-place finish, Moonlite Strike shows a competitive 111 on TimeformUS.
Three starts ago, Moonlite Strike also won the Roar Stakes at Gulfstream by 3¼ lengths. His stablemate Collaborate ran third in the same race and won an optional claimer at Gulfstream in his next start, before finishing sixth in the Curlin Stakes.
If Swill fails to fire, Moonlite Strike does not need an exceptional race to beat this field.
Also think about the Not This Time gelding Sibelius, who broke his maiden at Keeneland on April 23 with a 110 on TimeformUS. His flop in the Penn Mile Stakes (G3) on slop is understandable, as well as the troubled run in the Concern Stakes at Pimlico, in which he was eased.
Top pick: #1 Swill (9-2)
Contender: #5 Moonlite Strike (5-1)
Best value: #8 Sibelius (10-1)
Charles Town Race 11: $400,000 Charles Town Oaks (G3)
Caramel Swirl is the deserving favorite in this race based on class and speed, which is a tough combination to beat. She enters off a three-length win in an allowance race at Saratoga on July 24, where she posted a career-high 113 on TimeformUS.
Cross out the Eight Belles Stakes (G2) effort for Caramel Swirl. She was a well-beaten seventh, but she did not receive a great trip in the 12-horse field.
Three starts ago, Caramel Swirl broke her maiden by 10¼ lengths in a seven-furlong maiden race at Keeneland. Seven furlongs is the right distance for this filly.
With that said, Charles Town’s version of a seven-furlong sprint is unique because the horses navigate two turns. Caramel Swirl has run second in a two-turn maiden race at Gulfstream and third in a two-turn maiden race on grass at the same track, but this is still a new challenge.
Caramel Swirl is the top pick, although there are some interesting longshots in the race as well.
R Adios Jersey enters this race as an undefeated 4-for-4 filly. In that winning streak of four races, she won the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies Stakes in March at Tampa Bay Downs. But, she has not been seen since that 2¼-length win.
According to TimeformUS Pace Projector, R Adios Jersey is supposed to secure the lead. With jockey Paco Lopez aboard, the likelihood that she gets sent to the front is even higher.
If R Adios Jersey can overcome the layoff, she is a threat to wire the field. TimeformUS gives trainer Georgina Baxter a perfect 100 rating with horses returning off a 114 to 190-day layoff. The Lopez/Baxter team is also rated a 100 as well.
For a creative pick, how about Moon Swag? She enters off a second-place finish in the Indiana Oaks (G3) last month, where she only lost by a neck to Soothsay.
In that runner-up effort, Moon Swag sat close to the pace and made an earlier move than usual before hitting the lead by the top of the stretch. The more aggressive tactics suit this filly, and DeShawn Parker takes the mount again.
Top pick: #1 Caramel Swirl (5-2)
Value picks: #8 R Adios Jersey (12-1), #4 Moon Swag (10-1)
Charles Town Race 12: $800,000 Charles Town Classic (G2)
Art Collector did not run well in his return race June 25 with a flat sixth-place finish in the Kelly’s Landing Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs. However, he made amends with a 1½-length win in the nine-furlong Alydar Stakes at Saratoga.
In the Alydar win, Art Collecter posted a 119 on TimeformUS. Considering this 4-year-old colt won the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) last summer with a 123 and the Ellis Park Derby with a 124, he is likely to move forward in his third start off the bench.
If Art Collector handles the three turns, he should prove hard to beat. But again, the odd configuration at Charles Town makes it hard to call Art Collector a single, as this track is not for every horse. If there are horses entered who already won local races in the past, they deserve extra consideration.
There are two horses in the field with past wins at Charles Town – Bourbon Calling and Sleepy Eyes Todd. The latter runner is the defending champion of this race.
The former runner Bourbon Calling won the seven-furlong Russell Road Stakes here last August. While it was only a sprint distance, he still went through two turns en route to his win.
More recently, Bourbon Calling ran third by 4½ lengths in the paceless West Virginia Governors Stakes at Mountaineer this month and seventh in the aforementioned Kelly’s Landing Stakes. Like Art Collector, he came off a layoff in the Kelly's Landing.
Bourbon Calling’s only attempt at nine furlongs is an eighth-place finish in the Clark Stakes (G1) last November, but he could run better at this distance against the lesser competition in this race. His dam Bestowed a Star is a half-sister to Recepta, who was second by a nose in the nine-furlong 2016 Diana Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
As for Sleepy Eyes Todd, the connections did him a disservice by taking away his natural speed in longer routes. Last year, he won this race by setting the pace and opening up late for an impressive 7½-length win with a 123 figure on TimeformUS.
If Sleepy Eyes Todd can flash his old speed in this race, he can repeat.
Top selection: #8 Art Collector (5-2)
Best value: #4 Bourbon Calling (15-1)
Contender: #7 Sleepy Eyes Todd (6-1)