Charles Town Classic 2018: Odds and analysis

April 18, 2018 02:22pm

Saturday's Grade 2, $1.2 million Charles Town Classic brings together a field of veteran horses from the older male division. This is a group of runners that has won a total of 51 times from 171 career starts. They may not be the biggest names in racing, but they are certainly horses that know how to find the winner’s circle.

The Classic is run at a mile and an eighth on the six-furlong Charles Town bullring dirt track. To get the nine furlongs, the race starts on the backstretch and goes around three turns.

Since the inaugural running of the Classic in 2009, jockey Javier Castellano has won the race three times, including the last two with Stanford and Imperative. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the race twice with Caixa Eletronica and Stanford.

With the headliners of the handicap division having run recently in the Dubai World Cup or the Oaklawn Handicap, a field of seven has been assembled with post time for race 11 scheduled for 5:40 pm ET.

Fear the Cowboy [ML 9-2 – Cowboy Cal – Loza Jr./Negron – 29: 9-7-3 - $1,640,869] Fear the Cowboy, who was bred by students at the University of Kentucky, got on a roll at the end of 2017 when he won the Harlan's Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream, which led him to the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and a fourth-place finish at odds of 74-1. He then shipped out west to get third in the Big ‘Cap (G1) at Santa Anita in March. This Grade 2 fits him well in terms of class and running style. Looks like the right spot.
 

You’re to Blame [ML 8-1 – Distorted Humor – Pletcher/Bravo – 13: 3-3-3 - $231,165] This 4-year-old ridgling has yet to win a stakes race, although as a sophomore he placed in the Bay Shore (G3) and the Easy Goer. In the Easy Goer he ran behind West Coast. Most recently he was third behind War Story in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa. In both of his races this year, the Todd Pletcher runner was part of the early pace. A solid allowance horse.

Discreet Lover [ML 10-1 – Repent – St. Lewis/J. D. Acosta – 37: 6-7-5 - $630,860] The 5-year-old horse has made a noteworthy 36 career starts while toiling at most of the Mid-Atlantic tracks. Last summer he was fifth behind Gun Runner in the Whitney and the Woodward. He won a listed stake at Penn National in November and then on April 7 had a breakthrough victory in the Excelsior (G3) at Aqueduct with odds of almost 8-1. There, he rallied from last to first in a field of seven. Returns off two weeks' rest.

Something Awesome [ML 8-1 – Awesome Again – J. Corrales/E. Prado – 23: 8-2-6 - $401,051] This 7-year-old son of Awesome Again has eight career victories, including a March listed stakes at Laurel going nine furlongs and a month earlier in the General George Stakes (G3) at seven panels. Overall, he has won four of his last five starts. The expected strong early pace should set up his off the pace running style. Jockey Edgar Prado gets the mount as he approaches 7,000 career wins. He will get a good setup.

War Story [ML 5-2 – Northern Afleet – Navarro/Castellano – 26: 6-3-3 - $2,294,305] Until he won the Challenger Stakes at Tampa, War Story was been running exclusively in graded stakes company. The 6-year-old gelding had been calling out for some class relief and when he got it, he won easily. In last year’s Charles Town Classic, he ran third on a sloppy track. This year’s race seems to be another opportunity to contend for the top spot. Big chance to win.

Diversify [ML 8-5 – Bellamy Road – Violette Jr./ I. Ortiz Jr. – 11: 7-2-0 - $799,425] This 5-year-old is the most lightly raced horse in the field with only 11 starts in his career. The New York-bred broke out of the state-bred ranks when he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last year. He followed that with a fourth-place effort in the Clark Handicap (G1). This will be his first start of the year, and he will find a lot of company on the front end, where he likes to run. He does run well fresh, but it won’t be easy. The favorite.

Afleet Willy [ML 12-1 – Wilburn – C. Gonzalez/J. Torres – 27: 12-7-2 - $487,735] This speedy Laurel Park runner has hit the board 21 times in 27 career starts. That includes four wins in listed stakes going two turns. He is yet another one that likes to be on the lead right from the start. There appears to be a lot speed signed on for this race, so Afleet Willy will have to battle it out on the front end. Will ensure a fast pace.

Summary
: There is a significant amount of early speed in the Charles Town Classic with half of the field doing its best running up front. That includes Diversity who is making his 2018 debut after winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup last year.

War Story, Fear the Cowboy and Discreet Lover are all graded stakes winners that have an off-the-pace running style. The advantage seems to go to the closers getting the right race setup. Down the stretch to the wire, it could very well be a battle between War Story and Fear the Cowboy.

The big question is how far will Diversify carry his speed off the five-month layoff?

 

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