Charles Town set to kick off 2023 season

Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races is set to begin racing in the new year on Wednesday, January 4, following another successful season in 2022. Wednesday’s card is the first of 164 live days scheduled at Charles Town for 2023.

The track’s two graded stakes – the Charles Town Classic (G2) and Charles Town Oaks (G3) – are expected to take up their usual places on the calendar in late August, pending finalization of the track’s stakes schedule in January. State-breds will tentatively take center stage on October 14 as Charles Town will host the 37th renewal of the West Virginia Breeders Classics.    

Charles Town’s opening night card features nine races with full fields of 10 or more entered in six of them. The card includes a pair of West Virginia-bred maiden special weight races, with race two, for three-year-olds, having a full field of 10. Ziggy Stardust, second or third in three straight for trainer Javier Contreras, is the 9-5 morning line favorite and will have Carlos Lopez in the irons.

The 2022 Charles Town Classic (G2) saw Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector become the first horse since Researcher to win back-to-back editions of Charles Town’s premier race. Piloted for the second year in a row by Luis Saez and sent out by trainer Bill Mott, the Grade 1-winning son of Bernardini took the Classic field gate-to-wire, while local hopeful Muad’dib finished a respectable second. 

The 2022 Charles Town Oaks (G3) had its own gate-to-wire winner, as Tyler Gaffalione, Steve Asmussen, and Peter Blum Thoroughbreds teamed up to take the Oaks with Society in a stakes record time of 1:23.42 for the seven furlongs. The three-year-old daughter of Gun Runner went on to capture the Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx in her next start. 

West Virginia Breeders’ Classics XXXVI took place on October 8, and the aforementioned Muad’dib pulled off a repeat of his own, taking his second consecutive Sam Huff West Virginia Breeders’ Classic, a race bearing the name of Breeders’ Classics co-founder, late NFL Hall of Famer Sam Huff, for the first time. The son of top West Virginia stallion Fiber Sonde is owned by David Raim, trained by trainer Jeff Runco, and ridden by Arnaldo Bocachica.  In the richest race for fillies and mares on the Breeders’ Classics card, Hessica scored a mild upset in the West Virginia Cavada Breeders’ Classic. 

For the fifth time in his career, Bocachica topped the annual jockey standing at Charles Town in both wins and earnings. Winning at a 28% rate in 2022, Bocachica’s 175 winners from 618 starts allowed him to bank $4,231,973 in earnings over the course of the year.  Apprentice Marshall Mendez’s 143 victories were enough to claim the runner-up spot on the list with Carlos Lopez, Reshawn Latchman and Christian Hiraldo rounding out the top five.    

Jeff Runco’s 16-year run as leading trainer came to an end in 2022, with conditioner Anthony Farrior claiming the top spot with 140 wins, 22 more than runner-up Ronney Brown. While Runco’s 79 wins were only good for third in the standings, he made the most of his 431 starters as he produced $2,843,991 in earnings, allowing him to take the earnings title as one of only three trainers to hit the $2-million mark in winnings, joining Farrior and Brown.