Diversify & War Story Headline $1.2M Charles Town Classic
2018 Charles Town Classic - Grade 1 winner Diversify headlines the the $1,200,000 Charles Town Classic to be run over the Charles Town oval coming up on April 21. The Grade 2, 1 1/8 mile test will anchor a 13 race program at Charles Town Races that kicks off with a special 12:30 P.M. start time.
2018 Charles Town Classic Odds & Entries
Race 11 on Charles Town's Saturday card with a Post Time of 5:36 PM
|1||Fear the Cowboy||9-2||Luis Negron||Efren Loza, Jr.|
|2||You're to Blame||8-1||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher|
|3||Discreet Lover||10-1||J. Acosta||Uriah St. Lewis|
|4||Something Awesome||8-1||Edgar Prado||Jose Corrales|
|5||War Story||5-2||Javier Castellano||Jorge Navarro|
|6||Diversify||8-5||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Richard Violette, Jr.|
|7||Afleet Willy||12-1||Jomar Torres||Claudio Gonzalez|
Diversify is the only Grade 1 winner among a field of seven in Saturday's $1.2 million Charles Town Classic (G2), but among those he'll have to fend off is War Story, who looks to give jockey Javier Castellano a third consecutive win in the Classic and fourth overall.
A multiple stakes winner in the New York-bred ranks when he entered the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last October, the speedy Diversify wound up leading the entire mile and a quarter, winning by one length over Keen Ice. Although fourth as the favorite in his season finale in the Clark H. (G1), trainer Rick Violette is confident the son of Bellamy Road will fire in his return from a five-month spell.
Lauren Evans and Ralph M. Evans' Diversify made his mark in the handicap division in 2017 by taking the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) over the likes of Keen Ice, Pavel and Good Samaritan following a pair of dominating scores against New York bred stakes company. After choosing to bypass the Breeders' Cup Classic, the Rick Violette trainee followed that up with a fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap in November.
The now five-year-old has been progressing steadily towards his seasonal debut, most recently working a five-furlong bullet in 1:00 2/5 on March 28 at Palm Meadows.
Back for a second go in the Charles Town Classic is Imaginary Stables and Glenn Ellis' War Story, who finished third in 2017 edition of the race, beaten just a half-length for the top spot.
Trained by Jorge Navarro, the 6-year-old Northern Afleet gelding hasn't shied away from facing top level competition in a career that's seen him bank nearly $2.3 million in earnings. War Story notched his biggest victory in his first start after the 2017 Charles Town Classic, when he won the June 10 Brooklyn Invitational Stakes (G2).
After a fourth-place finish in the 2017 Breeders' Cup Classic, War Story ended up tenth in the Pegasus World Cup before rebounding to win when given class relief in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
One who could challenge Diversify for the lead in the Charles Town Classic is Afleet Willy, who has won seven of his last eight route races including two in a row. Better still, two of his last three wins have come at the mile and one-eighth distance of the Charles Town Classic.
Afleet Willy uses his early speed to his best advantage most of the time, having earned four of his last five wins leading from start to finish. However, Afleet Willy has also proven capable of coming from off the pace, even from far back, as when he rallied from ninth of 10 to win the Richard W. Small Stakes in November at this 1 1/8-mile trip.
Prior to that, Afleet Willy earned a career-best 121 Equibase Speed Figure. With three exceptional morning workouts since his last win in February to show he's in top physical condition, Afleet Willy has a big shot to win this year's Charles Town Classic. He's sitting at 12-1 odds on the morning line.
About the Charles Town Classic
After only nine runnings, the Charles Town Classic has already established itself as a prominent early season stop for the best handicap horses in training. As of January 2017, the 61 different horses to start in the Charles Town Classic had combined for 116 graded stakes wins - 30 of which were Grade I's.
The fields assembled have proved popular with fans as well, as the Charles Town Classic cards run to date have produced the eight largest handles in track history, with a high of $4,847,106 in 2015.
On April 16, 2011, the Grade 3 Charles Town Classic became the first graded stakes race held at Charles Town in the track's 77-year history. The newly minted grade helped produce one of the year's strongest races as the 2011 Charles Town Classic was the first non-Breeders' Cup race in the United States to have 10 or more starters, 100% of which were graded stakes winners going into the gate since the 2006 Arlington Million. While Duke of Mischief came home the winner, the race produced the three finalists for the older male Eclipse Award in Acclamation, Game on Dude and Tizway.
Following the 2011 running, the Charles Town Classic received an upgrade to Grade 2 status for 2012 and again produced a field of 10, comprised entirely of graded stakes winners. Caixa Eletronica denied Duke of Mischief a repeat and gave trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano their first wins in the Charles Town Classic.
On April 20, 2013, the Charles Town Classic and its $1,500,000 purse jumped into rarified air as it joined the 2001 Haskell as the richest thoroughbred race contested in U.S. racing history outside of the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup World Championships. Ultimately, Game on Dude was able to avenge his defeat in the 2011 Charles Town Classic as the popular gelding bested Clubhouse Ride and multiple Grade 1 winner Ron the Greek by a half-length in the closest finish in the race's history. The all-sources handle of $4,398,985 smashed the previous record for a single card in track history, set in 2012. Game on Dude was back to defend his title in the 2014 Charles Town Classic and shipped to West Virginia fresh off becoming the first horse to ever win the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap for a third time. Lying in wait for the defending champ was a familiar foe in Clubhouse Ride, eventual Whitney Handicap (G1) winner Moreno and local star Lucy's Bob Boy. However, it was a 26-to-1 outsider who pulled off the major upset as Imperative, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, swept past Game on Dude on the far turn and became the longest shot to ever win the Charles Town Classic.
2015 saw Shared Belief, the top-rated horse in the world as per the Longines World's Best Racehorse rankings, make his first-ever trip outside of California to contest the Charles Town Classic against the likes of Moreno, Vyjack and defending champ Imperative. However, Shared Belief would be pulled up on the clubhouse turn and Moreno powered home to victory in track record time with Imperative rallying for second. The card shattered all single-day wagering records at Charles Town with $4,847,106 bet in total, including an incredible $2,423,332 bet on the Classic itself.
In 2016, a front-running Stanford would give Pletcher and Castellano their second victory in the Charles Town Classic as the son of Malibu Moon coasted on the lead to a two-length score over the popular Mid-Atlantic star Page McKenney.
In 2017, Castellano would win his third Charles Town Classic while he piloted 2014 champ Imperative to his second victory in West Virginia's richest horse race.
The field is rounded out by multiple Grade 3 winner Fear the Cowboy, a distant third in the Santa Anita H. (G1) last time; Something Awesome, a dual stakes winner at Laurel over the winter including the General George (G3) at seven furlongs; and Discreet Lover, upset winner of the Excelsior (G3) at Aqueduct two weeks ago.