War Story benefits if Charles Town Classic pace contested

By Reinier Macatangay
April 19, 2018 06:57pm

West Virginia's Charles Town is an odd racetrack with a “bullring” configuration. In other words, for the Grade 2, $1.2 million Charles Town Classic on Saturday, the horses will make at least three turns on their way to the finish line. 

At most racetracks other than Belmont Park, races at this distance are held at two turns. It is a change of pace to see them go around so many times.

In any case, the short turns do not seem to cause any odd bias, as both speed horses and closers have proven successful in this race. Last year, Imperative closed in the slop to win, while the speedy Stanford took them wire-to-wire in 2016.

Morning line favorite Diversify will attempt to emulate Stanford, as he has held the lead by two lengths at the first call in his last three starts. There is class in his record as the reigning Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) champion, although he is not immune to running too fast early and fading as he did in the Clark Handicap (G1) last out. Afleet Willy should press him from the outside.

If Diversify and Afleet Willy hook up, then the race should set up for War Story, who went wide on every turn in last year’s edition. Now a 6-year-old gelding, he only lost by a half length and continues to be a presence in major races for older horses. His one major clunker came in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) three months ago, but other than that, he puts in the same consistent closing performance every time.

Yet, War Story does not need to be too far off the leaders either. He can sit a couple of lengths off Diversify and Afleet Willy, and strike first. Because of the likelihood of a fast pace, War Story gets the nod over Diversify. 

One closer the public may overlook is Fear the Cowboy, who starts from the rail and completed the superfecta in the Pegasus World Cup and trifecta in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1). While not fast, he is consistent, too.

After watching previous editions of this race to see if a rail trip helps horses save ground and offer more kick late, it does not appear so. Still, the pace will work in his favor as long as no other horses scratch.

To touch upon the other entries, You’re to Blame is a Todd Pletcher-trained runner with speed. Unfortunately, he lacks the talent to win a Grade 2 race. Expect You're to Blame to mix it up with the front pack early and fade. 

Discreet Lover and Something Awesome are decent closers, and if they receive good trips either one of them can complete the trifecta. 

If another speed horse besides Diversify must be trusted in the first three slots, then perhaps Afleet Willy can be used rather than You're to Blame. His top Brisnet Speed Ratings numbers are not far off Diversify’s best races.

This is a race where the tote board needs to watched for value. 

Elkhorn Stakes analysis


As with most turf marathons, the Keeneland's Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes is a difficult race to predict. But the same rules of pace handicapping apply.

In Hayabusa One’s last race, the San Luis Rey Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita, he received soft fractions in which to close. The half mile went in 49.35, and the six-furlong point clocked in 1:14.40. If Brisnet pace figures are used, then the first call earned a “-28,” which means 28 points under a normal pace.

Hayabusa One closed from fifth to second, just a little less than a length off the winner Itsinthepost, who won the Elkhorn last year. Despite the wide post position, Hayabusa One is the tepid choice in a competitive field.

Itsinthepost is not a bad pick, either, as he has retained his form since last year’s Elkhorn. The 6-year-old not only won the San Luis Rey over Hayabusa One, but he took the San Marcos Stakes (G2) as well.

In most cases, West coast turf horses are not as strong as those East of the Rockies, but the Elkhorn is void of any world beaters. Itsinthepost should find himself in the mix.

For those who like to play Chad Brown horses on Keeneland turf, he is represented by a 5-year-old gelding named Call Provision. Pace analysis fans will notice he came from 10 lengths back to close into a 51 half at Aqueduct in the Red Smith Handicap (G3), and only missed by a half length.

The field in the Red Smith was not that strong. But ignoring any Brown horse on turf seems like an unwise decision at this point in the meet.

Finally, One Go All Go has been a picture of consistency with only one clunker since his trainer switch last fall. Note the company this horse keeps. He finished runner-up to Sadler’s Joy and Shining Copper in that stretch, while losing by less than two lengths to Heart to Heart in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1).

Running 1 1/2 miles might be a bit too long for One Go All Go.

But the distance is right up Hayabusa One's alley. If he can work out a trip from Post 12, he should find a way to mow down One Go All Go, and duel his constant foe Itsinthepost again and Call Provision in the lane. 

 

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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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