Charles Town Classic 2019: Odds and analysis for Saturday's race

April 17, 2019 03:33pm
Diamond King wins 2018 Tesio Stakes
Photo: Maryland Jockey Club

Bullring racetracks such as Charles Town always present a different challenge for handicappers. Sometimes horses with poor form wake up on the shorter turns, while others more suited to a full-length oval flounder in the odd configuration.

In Saturday's Grade 2, $1 million Charles Town Classic, there are some familiar faces with past experience in this race, and some new challengers as well. None of these horses are superstars, but they present bettors a well-balanced field. 

On paper, Diamond King is the biggest name, followed by other notable shippers such as Discreet Lover, Rally Cry, Something Awesome and War Story.  

Plus, there are one or two overmatched local horses. They add spice to the lineup as well.

RELATED: Play the Charles Town Classic, get $200 free

The Charles Town Classic is carded as Race 11 with post time set for 5:37 p.m. ET. Here's a look at the field:

1. Mongolian Groom, 10-1 (Hightail – Enebish Ganbat/Geovanni Franco– 9: 2-1-2): This 4-year-old gelding finished third in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1), not too far behind Gift Box and McKinzie. Despite that race’s degradation in quality in recent years, the effort is still notable. Some might knock the lack of early foot, but Imperative found success in this race more than once with a closing style. Because the wider public is still unfamiliar with him, his odds may offer value. Live longshot.

2. Nanoosh, 12-1 (Paynter – Jorge Navarro/Emisael Jaramillo – 9: 4-0-0): On the win end, this 4-year-old colt is probably not good enough. But a the fourth-place finish in Oaklawn PArk's Essex Handicap wasn't terrible. He only ended up a little over a length behind the winner Rated R Superstar, and while a blanket finish is not the sign of a good race, the Charles Town Classic is not a strong field either. Navarro will saddle him for the first time. Use underneath.

3. Diamond King, 7-2 (Quality Road – John Servis/Javier Castellano – 11: 5-1-2): In most graded stakes races, this is an underdog. But in this one, he is the one of the main class horses of the field with two graded stakes placings. One of them came in the Oklahoma Derby (G3) last fall, when he set the pace and only lost by a nose to Lone Sailor. After a layoff, he came back strong last month in a Gulfstream Park optional claimer, winning by more than three lengths to top a decent field. The pick.

4. Rally Cry, 5-2 (Uncle Mo – Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez – 14: 4-2-3): Fragile is the best word to describe this 6-year-old horse with only 14 starts. But his past two efforts in the Woodward Stakes (G1) are difficult to ignore. Before going on the shelf last fall, he contested the pace in the Woodward and only finished three lengths behind the winner, Yoshida, and one length behind runner-up Gunnevera. In the 2017 Woodward, he finished second and (understandably) 10 ¼ lengths behind Gun Runner. If he comes back in similar form, then expect him to run well. Win contender.

5. Imperative, 30-1 (Bernardini – Robert Hess Jr./Jacob Radosevich – 46: 6-8-4): While this 9-year-old gelding won the 2014 and 2017 editions of this race, his time is done. In his last three starts, he finished a lifeless ninth in a Gulfstream optional claimer, eighth in the Pegasus World Cup and fifth in an Oaklawn starter allowance.  Toss.

6. Discreet Lover, 8-1 (Repent – Uriah St. Lewis/Christian Hiraldo – 45: 7-7-7): His win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) proved a popular one, as fans love a hard-trying closer who eventually gets the job done in a big race. But he came crashing back down to earth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic with an eighth-place finish. He also ran second-to-last in this race last year, which makes his affinity for the bullring configuration questionable. Because of his prior effort, I prefer to pass. Toss.

7. Something Awesome, 20-1 (Awesome Again – Jose Corrales/Edgar Prado – 28: 9-3-6): As the defending champion, he certainly is proven on this short course. But his recent form is questionable. Last year, he came into Charles Town with wins in the General George Stakes (G3) and Harrison E. Johnson Memorial at Laurel Park. This year, he finished 10th
 in the Pegasus World Cup and the General George as well. The former is forgivable, but the latter 10th is a huge red flag. Toss.

8. Runnin’toluvya, 12-1 (Fiber Sonde – Timothy Grams/Oscar Flores – 15: 11-2-0): It is hard to fault the connections for taking a shot and putting this gelding’s eight-race local win streak on the line. It is right to question who he defeated throughout the streak, of course. Regardless of the quality of this Grade 2, the best horses in this spot still breathe a different air. He will take a loss here. Toss.

9. War Story, 5-1 (Northern Afleet – Jorge Navarro/Kendrick Carmouche – 32: 6-6-4): Once in a while, this 7-year-old warrior still pops up with a credible effort. He did finish runner-up in this race last year, and followed it up with a second in the Brooklyn Invitational Stakes (G2) as well. After a clunker in the Suburban Stakes (G2) where he ran 10th
, he finished second in the Greenwood Cup Stakes (G3) and third in the Temperance Hill Invitational at Belmont, before a flat sixth in the Marathon Stakes at Churchill Downs led to a layoff. Use underneath.

10. Unbridled Juan, 10-1 (Unbridled’s Song – Jose Corrales/J.D. Acosta – 27: 7-9-9): What an amazing overall record. In 27 starts, this gelding has finished in the money 25 times. Most recently, he was the runner-up in the Harrison E. Johnson Memorial, the same Laurel prep race Something Awesome used last year before posting a mild upset in this race. Once in a while he ventures into graded stakes company, too, as he did finish fourth in the Fred W. Hooper (G3) at Gulfstream against a speed bias. With that said, he is more reliable in the second or third slots. Use underneath.

AE. Bobby G, 30-1 (Awesome Again – Jose Corrales/Xavier Perez – 14: 4-1-1): Coming off a win in a Laurel Park starter allowance, he is overmatched against graded stakes horses. Note all the claiming level losses in his record too. Needs to draw in, and if he does...Toss.

Diamond King is on the upswing. He owns the right class and tactical speed to put himself in position. The only question is whether he likes the bullring.

In horizontals, Diamond King is usable along with Rally Cry, and even Mongolian Groom if bettors want an “in-form” closer. A few of these old favorites seem out of form, which makes them hard to bet. But War Story, Unbridled Juan and Nanoosh are possible Cs, or one or two of them are Bs if feeling brave enough to upgrade.

Vertically, it might be fun to key Mongolian Groom up and down, with the hope that he follows up his Santa Anita Handicap performance with another strong effort. The west coast angle worked in 2014, when Imperative showed improved form in the San Antonio Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita before taking the Charles Town Classic.  


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