2023 Charles Town Classic Contenders & Odds

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Charles Town Races Press Release
Updated: August 23, 2023

Giant Game, Doppelganger & Skippylongstocking To Battle in Charles Town Classic

When the unfortunate news broke last week of the passing of Bruce Lunsford's two-time defending Charles Town Classic champion Art Collector due to complications of laminitis, it not only left a hole in the barn of trainer Bill Mott, but also in the race he was looking to become the first three-time winner of.

As a result, a full field of ten runners with one alternate will head to the gate on Friday, August 25 at Charles Town Races as the $1,000,000 Charles Town Classic (G2) looks to crown its first new champion since Sleepy Eyes Todd took the 2020 edition of West Virginia's richest race.

2023 Charles Town Classic Field & Odds

Race 11 at Charles Town on Friday, August 25 - Post 10:25 PM

Entry Horse ML Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Eastern Bay 30-1 Christian Hiraldo
121 Lbs
Raymond Ginter, Jr.
2 Giant Game 5-2 Martin Garcia
121 Lbs
Dale Romans
3 Perfect Flight 15-1 Junior Alvarado
119 Lbs
Peter Miller
4 Doppelganger 6-1 Jevian Toledo
124 Lbs
Brittany Russell
5 Skippylongstocking 3-1 Tyler Gaffalione
121 Lbs
Saffie Joseph, Jr.
6 Double Crown 10-1 Jeiron Barbosa
119 Lbs
Raymond Ginter, Jr.
7 Call Me Fast 9-2 Joseph Talamo
119 Lbs
Michael Puhich
8 Dash Attack 12-1 John Velazquez
119 Lbs
Kenneth McPeek
9 Muad'dib 15-1 Arnaldo Bocachica
119 Lbs
Jeff Runco
10 O'Connor (CHI) 8-1 Trevor McCarthy
119 Lbs
Saffie Joseph, Jr.
11 Martin Man 50-1 Victor Rodriguez
119 Lbs
Wade Sanderson

Grade 1-winner Doppelganger, multiple graded stakes winner Skippylongstocking, and late entrant Giant Game will now find themselves vying for favoritism in this year's Charles Town Classic. The Classic joins the $750,000 Charles Town Oaks (G3), the $350,000 Robert Hilton Memorial, the $250,000 Russell Road, $250,000 Misty Bennett Pink Ribbon, and four $75,000 restricted stakes on Charles Town's biggest card of the year, which gets underway at 5 p.m. ET.

The night also offers some terrific wagering opportunities for horseplayers with a $100,000 guaranteed All-Stakes Pick 5 that kicks off in Race 7, a $100,000 guaranteed Pick 4 that starts with Race 10, and a mandatory distribution of the Charles Town 6-12 jackpot carryover that currently sits at $50,456 which gets underway in Race 8.

Trainer Brittany Russell will send out Doppelganger, winner of the Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct this April. The four-year-old son of top sire Into Mischief is coming off a win in the Battery Park Stakes at Delaware Park. Russell also took advantage of her stable's proximity to Charles Town to get Doppelganger a work over the track and under the lights, which can be a variable for many runners racing at Charles Town for the first time. Working between races last Thursday, Doppelganger was credited with a half mile in :46.60 seconds, and a robust gallop out in :59.40, indicating his readiness for Friday's contest.

While Doppelganger has the lone North American Grade 1 victory in this year's field, Skippylongstocking may attract more attention at the betting windows in this year's Classic. The 4-year-old son of Exaggerator has consistently kept good company in his races, with the Classic set to mark his 11th consecutive start in graded stakes company.

Horse Racing Rebates

"He's a hard-knocking horse that tries really hard every time," said trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. "He danced in a lot of the big dances as a 3-year-old, you know, the Preakness (G1), the Belmont (G1), and then the West Virginia Derby (G3). So we know he likes it in West Virginia and hopefully he can pull off the double with the Charles Town Classic."

Joseph will also send out O'Connor, who achieved Group 1-winning status in his native Chile. While he has yet to win a graded stakes stateside, Joseph feels his charge is rounding back into form at the right time.

"O'Connor was coming off a layoff last time out and he missed some training, so he probably needed that one," said Joseph of his horse's third place finish in the West Virginia Governor's Stakes (G3). "We think he's coming into this one in much better shape and I think we'll see an improved effort."

Giant Game took the field gate-to-wire in the Cornhusker Handicap (G3) two races back, defeating two Classic entrants in Skippylongstocking and Call Me Fast. The improving son of Giants Causeway for trainer Dale Romans followed up that effort with a fifth-place finish in the Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, which saw him lead to the midway point of the far turn before tiring. Giant Game projects to be the pacesetter in this year's Classic, with Martin Garcia named to ride.

Call Me Fast was another late addition to this year's Classic field, with his connections choosing to supplement the gelded son of Dialed In to the race. Call Me Fast exits four consecutive tries against Grade 3 company.

"He's been keeping pretty good company lately so this was a logical spot," said trainer Mike Puhich. "I thought he ran a credible race at Prairie Meadows [in the Cornhusker Handicap (G3)], and showed he deserved a shot at the $1 million."

Call Me Fast will have the services of Joe Talamo in the irons, and will also be putting blinkers back on for the Classic.

"We took the blinkers off before the Ben Ali (G3) at Keeneland to teach him how to settle, and he definitely did. But we're putting them back on for this race so that hopefully he'll put himself into the race a little earlier. But he's versatile. And he's breezed on a six-furlong track before his first start and he just rattled around the turns, so I don't see that being an issue."

The runner-up in last year's Classic, local hopeful Muad'dib, is not coming into this year's race in the same raging form as last year. He entered last year's Classic a perfect 10-for-10 in his career. While he would taste defeat for the first time that night, he was hardly disgraced by finishing second to a horse of Art Collector's caliber.

His form since that night could be described as workmanlike. It includes four wins - all by margins of less than a length - and two more defeats, though each came with legitimate excuses according to two-time Charles Town Classic-winning trainer Jeff Runco. And while Muad'dib's resume may not be as pristine as it was going into last year's event, he does have the benefit of two more races under his belt this season than he did last year.

"He's really good right now," said Runco. "He had a couple of issues towards the end of last year and we got those rectified. But he's doing good and he's ready to stretch back out."

Trainer Raymond Ginter, Jr. supplemented a pair of graded stakes winners to the Classic in Kelso Handicap (G2) winner Double Crown and General George (G3) winner Eastern Bay, both for owner Built Wright Stables, LLC.

Rounding out the field are Perfect Flight for Peter Miller, Dash Attack for Ken McPeek, and a second local entrant Martin Man for trainer Wade Sanderson, who wound up as the lone alternate for this year's field.

Pre-Draw News

Art Collector Looking for Three-Peat in Charles Town Classic (G2)

UPDATE: August 17 - Dual Grade 1 winner Art Collector was euthanized on Thursday after developing laminitis. Bred and owned by Bruce Lunsford, the 6-year-old son of Bernardini had been based at Saratoga with Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott this summer in preparation for an attempt at a third straight win in the G2 Charles Town Classic.

August 8 - Two-time Charles Town Classic victor and Grade 1 winner Art Collector leads a list of 99 nominations for the Classic Town Classic and Charles Town Oaks, which closed this past Friday. The Classic and Oaks will both be run on Charles Town's biggest night of the year - Friday, August 25 - a card that features nine stakes races with $2.9 million in purse money on the line.

Owned by Bruce Lunsford and trained by Bill Mott, Art Collector will be taking a slightly different route to West Virginia's eastern panhandle than he did in 2021 and 2022. In both of those years, Art Collector won the Alydar Stakes at Saratoga three weeks prior to his run in the Classic. Thanks to a win in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park this January, Art Collector was not eligible for the Alydar this year. He followed up his Pegasus triumph with two respectable runner-up performances in the New Orleans Classic (G2) and Alysheba (G2).

The now six-year-old Art Collector will look to become the first horse to win three renewals of the Charles Town Classic. Last year saw Art Collector become the first horse since Researcher to win West Virginia's richest race in back-to-back years, while also joining Imperative and the aforementioned Researcher as the only two-time winners of the Classic.

Trainer Brittany Russell nominated a trio of runners for the Classic, headlined by Doppelganger, winner of the Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct this April. The four-year-old son of top sire Into Mischief is coming off a win in the Battery Park Stakes at Delaware Park. He's joined in the nominations by stablemates Be Better - owned by Repole Stable, who sent out Caixa Eletronica to victory in the 2012 Charles Town Classic - and Hello Hot Rod.

Two-time Charles Town Classic victor Todd Pletcher has three nominees as well, led by 2021 Cigar Mile (G1) winner Americanrevolution. Joining him in the nominations are fellow Pletcher trainees Bright Future and Weyburn. Trainer Brad Cox also has three Classic nominees. The five-year-old millionaire Warrant is perhaps the most established of his contingent, but both Best Actor and Zozos profile as up-and-comers in the handicap division.

Greyhound Betting

Two runners from this year's Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga find their way into the nominations: 2022 Blue Grass (G1) winner Zandon for trainer Chad Brown, and multiple graded stakes winner Last Samurai for Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, the latter of which ran fifth in last year's Charles Town Classic.

Trainer Doug O'Neill has a pair of Classic nominees, led by multiple Grade 2-winner Slow Down Andy. He's joined in the nominations by stablemate Katonah. Fellow California-based trainer Peter Miller nominated 2020 Del Mar Futurity (G1) winner Get Her Number along with Perfect Flight.

A pair of Florida-based trainers also nominated multiple horses for this year's Classic. Trainers Saffie Joseph, Jr. and Juan Alvarado have five nominations between them, Joseph represented by multiple Grade 3-winner Skippylongstocking and O'Connor, with Alvarado nominating three runners for Arindel Farm: Ghostzapper (G3) winner Clapton, Octane, and The Skipper Too.

The runner-up in last year's Classic will be back in search of the biggest win of his career, as Charles Town-based and Charles Town Classic-winning trainer Jeff Runco once again sends out Muad'dib. In the 2022 Classic, Muad'dib raced on even terms with Art Collector for the first six furlongs of the contest, before the latter edged away to a 4 ΒΌ length victory.

Other graded stakes winners nominated to the Classic include recent Cougar II (G3) winner Order and Law for Charles Town Classic-winning trainer Bob Hess, Jr. and Greenwood Cup (G3) winner Ridin With Biden for trainer Robert Reid, Jr.

This year's Charles Town Oaks (G3) received a $250,000 purse hike to $750,000, making it the richest sprint stakes for three-year-old fillies in North America. The nominations are headlined by Grade 1 winners Chocolate Gelato and Leave No Trace, Grade 2 winners Hoosier Philly and Southlawn, and Grade 3 winners Crypto Mo, Foggy Night, and Promiseher America. Over half of the 65 nominees (33) are stakes winners, with seven of the non-stakes winners having achieved graded stakes placed status.

Trainer Brittany Russell leads the way with six nominations for the Oaks, followed by Chad Brown's five, Todd Pletcher's four, and Brad Cox's three. Nine other trainers nominated two runners for the race.

Entries for the Charles Town Races' August 25 Charles Town Classic card will be taken on Tuesday, August 22.

Nominations for three more unrestricted stakes all run at seven furlongs - the $350,000 Robert Hilton Memorial for three-year-olds, the $250,000 Misty Bennett Pink Ribbon Stakes for older fillies and mares, and the $250,000 Russell Road for older horses - close this coming Friday, August 11.

Complete 2023 Charles Town Stakes Schedule

January 24 - Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races released its 2023 stakes schedule following approval by the West Virginia Racing Commission at its morning meeting Tuesday, January 24.

Charles Town's biggest day on the 2023 calendar follows up on a format that started in 2020, as Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races presents both of its graded stakes, the $1 million Charles Town Classic (G2) and $750,000 Charles Town Oaks (G3), on the same Friday, Aug. 25 card. The Classic and Oaks card gets underway with a special first post of 5 p.m. Eastern.

This year's Charles Town Oaks received a purse increase to $750,000, making it the richest sprint race for 3-year-old fillies in North America. Last year's edition was won by Society for owner Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, trainer Steve Asmussen, and jockey Tyler Gaffalione. Society went on to capture the Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx Racing in her subsequent start, becoming the seventh grade 1 or future grade 1-winning Charles Town Oaks alumna in the race's 14-year history.

For the first time since local hero Researcher won the first two editions of the Charles Town Classic, 2022 saw a repeat winner of the track's signature event, as Bruce Lunsford's Art Collector pulled off the feat in wire-to-wire fashion under Luis Saez. The grade 1-winning Bill Mott trainee will look to add to his resume this Saturday in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

While unable to match the win of fellow West Virginia-bred Runnin'toluvya , David Raim's Muad'dib continued a trend of success for local runners in the Classic by finishing second last year before pulling off a repeat of his own in the Sam Huff West Virginia Breeders' Classic. The Jeff Runco trainee will be pointed to the Charles Town Classic again in 2023, looking to improve on that second-place performance under Charles Town's reigning five-time leading rider, Arnaldo Bocachica.

In addition to the Charles Town Oaks (G3), one other unrestricted stakes race on the Classic night undercard-the Robert Hilton Memorial for straight 3-year-olds-received a purse hike to $350,000. The other unrestricted stakes-the Russell Road and Misty Bennett Pink Ribbon-remain at $250,000.

Since moving the Charles Town Classic and Oaks to the same card in 2020, the blockbuster program has produced three of the four largest single-card handles in track history, with the two largest coming in 2021 and 2022.

"We're incredibly pleased with the business results of the last three Charles Town Classic programs and look forward to ramping up the card this August," said Charlie McIntosh, Charles Town's director of racing operations. "The quality of the Charles Town Oaks fields have been exceptional, and we feel making the Oaks the richest 3-year-old filly stakes race in the country will continue that positive momentum for years to come."

Charles Town's 2023 stakes schedule features 24 races worth an even $4 million in total purses. These totals exclude the West Virginia Breeders' Classics XXXVII card scheduled for Oct. 14, with purses to be announced at a later date for the state's premier night for West Virginia-breds. For the first time, all non-Futurity or Breeders Classics' state-bred stakes will be run for $75,000 in 2023. The stakes schedule kicks off April 15 with the Original Gold Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares, with seven more state-bred stakes during April, May, June, and July, with four more scheduled for the Charles Town Classic and Oaks undercard.

One other notable change to the stakes program is the renaming of the Eleanor Casey Memorial to the James and Eleanor Casey Memorial, after the recent passing of West Virginia racing icon James W. Casey.

The 2023 racing calendar calls for 164 days of live racing, including a Wednesday through Saturday schedule in January, February, November, and December, with racing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the remainder of the year. Post time for all but Charles Town Classic and Oaks day is 7 p.m. Eastern.

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