Which horses had the best post-CT Classic careers?

Art Collector’s win in this past weekend’s Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park raised a question: which Charles Town Classic winners have enjoyed the most productive post-Classic careers?

Since its inception in 2009, the Grade 2, $1 million Charles Town Classic has seen two of its 11 different winners go on to forge at least one prestigious, Grade I victory and that tandem has now accounted for five subsequent Grade I wins. 

Here are the best post-Classic careers:

  1. Game On Dude – While Art Collector has won the Classic in each of his two local outings, Game On Dude captured the Classic in 2012 in his second of three ventures to the oval for trainer Bob Baffert and owner Joe Torre. Game On Dude would follow up that score by posting three Grade I victories during the remainder of his career, taking the Hollywood Gold Cup, the Pacific Classic and the Santa Anita Handicap before finishing second to Imperative while seeking a second straight tally in Charles Town’s signature event in 2013.

 2. Art Collector – Last Saturday afternoon two-time Classic hero Art Collector pulled off a 15-1 upset in the Pegasus for trainer Bill Mott and owner Bruce Lunsford, both of whom were on hand for the winners’ circle presentation last summer when he captured the Charles Town Classic for a second straight year. Art Collector, who now boasts 11 wins and over $4 million banked from 21 lifetime outings, had followed up his initial Classic victory in 2021 by taking the Grade I Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park and joined past Classic hero Game On Dude as the only two winners to attain a subsequent Grade I victory.

3. Caixa Eletronica – The winner of the 2012 Classic, its first year as a Grade 2 event, went on to win several more stakes. Among those were two graded events that same year, the Grade 2 True North at Belmont Park and the Grade 3 Fall Highweight at Aqueduct. He also finished second in the Grade 1 Vosburgh in a career that saw him win 23 of 69 starts and earn more than $1.8 million.

4. Sleepy Eyes Todd – Although his victory in the 2020 Classic may not have been the fastest, it was by the largest margin [7 1/2 lengths] and prompted a virtual world tour. He finished his career with six starts in 2021, those coming in three different countries and three different American states. Following his 2020 Classic win, Sleepy Eyes Todd won two more stakes, including the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park, and he finished fourth and fifth in Grade 1 company – the Pegasus and Saudi Cup – before finishing a good second behind Art Collector in his CT Classic title defense.

[Story continues below]

5. Imperative – Imperative is perhaps the most interesting of the two-time Classic winners. He ventured to Charles Town five times for the event, winning it in 2014 and 2017 and running second in 2016. Overall, Imperative posted a 7-8-4 slate and $3.3 million banked from 50 career outings, and his five efforts in the Charles Town Classic netted him nearly $2.1 million which would invariably represent almost two-thirds of his lifetime bankroll.In addition to his second CT Classic win, he scored in two additional minor stakes after his first Classic victory.

6. Stanford – One of two runners to win the event for Hall of Fame conditioner Todd Pletcher, Stanford finished second in a pair of Grade 2 events before taking the Classic and he would later add another Grade 3 stakes tally to his resume before returning to finishing a modest fifth in his title defense. Stanford concluded his career with six wins, five runner-up efforts and nearly $1.4 million banked from 17 career outings.

7. Researcher – While the list of Charles Town Classic winners already boasts a trio of Hall of Fame trainers, local conditioner Jeff Runco owns the distinction of taking the first two editions of the event with Researcher. Although the race was ungraded through those runnings, Researcher toppled Grade 1 winner Commentator in the inaugural edition of the Classic in 2009 and successfully defended his title the following year. Researcher concluded his career as a jumper, but he deserves high marks for taking the first two runnings. He won one other stakes after his first Classic win.

8. Runnintoluvya – Perhaps his victory in the 2019 Charles Town Classic was hardly the fastest or most dominant, but it perhaps serves as the most memorable. Virtually overlooked because of his local status as champion West Virginia-bred for trainer Tim Grams and wife Judy Grams, Runnintolivya wore down Diamond King to capture the Classic amid a bevy of enthusiastic fans thrilled to witness a hometown horse defending the oval by upending a host of talented invaders with far more fashionable pedigrees. He added one subsequent stakes victory to his resume and finished a good third in the Classic the following year.

Honorable mention goes to Ron the Greek, who finished third, behind Game On Dude and Clubhouse Ride, in the ’13 edition of the CT Classic. He subsequently won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont and then a Grade 1 and a Grade 2 while racing in Saudi Arabia.