Seven horses are slated to contest Saturday’s Grade 2, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic — but there’s plenty of reason to think that six of them will be aiming for second money.
Defending champion Game On Dude is back, and off his impressive score in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, he figures to be odds-on here. Last year, at 3-10 odds, he stalked the pace set by Percussion, assumed command, and then had enough to hold off his pursuers by a half-length.
One of those pursuers — Clubhouse Ride — is back to try it again. His second-place finish in this event a year ago was his fifth consecutive runner-up effort. The son of Candy Ride followed the Classic with a win in the Grade 2 Californian but has lost seven straight since. He owns a career record of 35-4-8-10.
An intriguing newcomer is Moreno, a talented son of Ghostzapper who finds his way to second place a little more often than trainer Eric Guillot would like. He won last year’s Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont Park and two races later, just missed against Will Take Charge in the Grade 1 Travers. But his Breeders’ Cup Classic try netted only a dismal 10th place finish; this will mark his first try since.
Those three will take the three inside posts, with four less accomplished rivals to their outside.
Those rivals include Ruler of Love, who placed in a pair of Grade 2 events last year as a three year-old, the West Virginia Derby and the Super Derby and whose lone stake win came on the turf as a juvenile; super well-bred Long River, most recently a near-miss second in the Grade 3 Excelsior; and Imperative, who ran a good second in the Grade 2 San Antonio but was nowhere to be found in the Santa Anita Handicap.
Also scheduled to face the starter is local hero Lucy’s Bob Boy. The speedy son of Flatter has won 17 of 21 tries over the Charles Town oval but figures to be out of his depth against the likes of these.