Warrior's Charge
Warrior’s Charge before the 2019 Preakness. Photo by Dottie Miller.

Trainer Brad Cox has become a household name among racing fans in recent years, his powerful barn spearheaded by talented runners like Knicks Go, Monomoy Girl, and Essential Quality, all of whom concluded their 2020 campaigns with Breeders’ Cup wins.

Down a level from those exalted heights are horses like Warrior’s Charge and Inject, who will be among the attractions Friday at Charles Town. Cox will saddle Warrior’s Charge in the Grade 2, $800,000 Charles Town Classic, the centerpiece of a stakes-filled card that also includes the Grade 3, $400,000 Charles Town Oaks, in which he’ll send out Inject.

Warrior’s Charge drew the rail and has been installed as the 3-1 second choice in the morning line for the Charles Town Classic. Only Art Collector, a four-year-old trained by Bill Mott, is a shorter price at 5-2 in the Classic.

In his most recent start, Warrior’s Charge rallied to finish second in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. Coincidentally, Warriors Charge was bested in the Stephen Foster by Maxfield, who was then second to Knicks Go in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga.

“He ran well in the Stephen Foster,” Cox said of Warrior’s Charge, who will again have the services of jockey Florent Geroux in the Classic. “He showed us a different dimension that day coming from off the pace. He’s got a lot of natural early speed, but the Stephen Foster was the first time that he’s really shown an ability to rate and then pass horses. He came out of it well and now we’re hoping he runs well again on Friday night.”

Warrior’s Charge, a five-year-old Munnings horse that Cox trains for Ten Strike Racing and Madaket Stables LLC, has been second twice in four winless starts this year, but he boasts a solid 5-3-3 slate and just over $1 million banked from 16 career outings. During his career, Warrior’s Charge has faced graded stakes company on eight previous occasions, winning the Grade 3 Razorback at Oaklawn Park and the Grade 3 Philip H Iselin at Monmouth, both last year.

He has also been second in a pair of Grade 2 events, including the Foster last out, and he was fourth in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes two years ago.

Warrior’s Charge hasn’t raced at Charles Town previously. In fact, Cox has started only three horses at Charles Town since the beginning of 2017.

“We don’t have a lot of experience racing horses over that track,” Cox said of Charles Town. “So, I’m hoping the rail going a-mile-and-an-eighth will be helpful. He’s got plenty of natural early speed and we learned something from him in the Stephen Foster. Florent will be back aboard him on Friday night and he knows him. I think he’ll handle the turns well and be in a good position throughout. We had 800,000 reasons to give him a chance in the race.”

In terms of inexperience over the strip, Warrior’s Charge will have plenty of company. Warrior’s Charge, along with morning line choice Art Collector, is among the majority of runners in the Classic who will be making their local debut over the strip and potentially the first and last time they will navigate three turns.

Only three horses in the Classic have made at least one start at Charles Town – defending champion Sleepy Eyes Todd; Bourbon Calling, who won the $100,000 Russell Road on the Classic undercard one year ago; and Air Token, a runner-up in a two-turn allowance here in May.

“He’s always trained and raced on the big tracks, but I don’t the track size is going to be a factor with him,” Cox said. “Once we started to stretch him out during his three-year-old season, he’s always shown speed going long and he’s been able to carry it a long way. He’s run some big races going long at the bigger tracks, so I don’t think he will have any issues with the small track. We’re just hoping for a clean break so he can be in a good position the whole race.”

Cox will also send out Inject in the Grade III, $400,000 Charles Town Oaks for three-year-old fillies going seven furlongs one race earlier on the card; the sophomore daughter of Frosted will also have Geroux in the irons. She is the 9-2 third choice on the morning line in a race in which another Bill Mott trainee, Caramel Swirl, is favored.

Third in the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Belmont Park last out, Inject won the $50,000 Goldfinch Stakes at Prairie Meadows in May as the even-money choice for Cox and owner Louis Wright.

“She’s coming into this race pretty good,” Cox said of Inject. “It’s a nice purse for straight three-year-old fillies this time of year. She’s got plenty of early speed. I’m not sure how that track usually plays for seven furlongs, but I know it’s two turns. I think that she’ll get over the track pretty well. We wanted to try her in graded stakes company last out which is why we went in the Victory Ride. She ran okay in there and I’m hoping she can improve off that effort. There’s 400,000 reasons to give her a try in there.”