A field of seven will head off to the mountains of West Virginia for the Grade 2 $1.5 million Charles Town Classic Saturday night, with the Bob Baffert trained Game On Dude the headliner as the 4-5 morning line favorite.
The seven that line up for the three turn 1 1/8 mile race will be competing for a $1 million first place check, an all-time record at the slots-fueled racetrack.
Charles Town was the first racetrack I ever walked into, and at the time (a few decades ago) the nine-race card was filled with $1,500 and $2,500 claiming races competing for purses that were on occasion less than $1,000.
The racetrack has come a long way since the first slot machine was installed.
The Baffert trained Game On Dude ran second in the race back in 2011, a race contested over a sloppy track. This year the gelding comes in to the race coming off back to back career top Beyer Speed Figures and hall of fame rider Mike Smith makes the trip.
“I asked Mike, ‘Do you want to ride the bull ring?’” Baffert said. “He said, ‘Hell, yeah! I grew up on bullrings, and I can still do it.’”
Baffert is pleased with the way the gelding is coming into the race, and opted for shipping to West Virginia instead of going to Hot Springs for the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap last weekend.
“He’s doing great; he’s happy,” Baffert said earlier this week. “He worked (Sunday) very well, five-eighths in 59 3/5 seconds. He’s really sharp right now. This is the second time we’ve been there. It’s a $1.5 million race, and it’s easier to get there than Dubai (for the World Cup).”
Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle defending champion Caixa Eletronica (6-1), who drew off smartly to win by three lengths, returning $18.80 to his backers.
Claimed for $62,500 in March of 2011, the eight-year-old has won eight races for his new connections.
“He’s a barn favorite, and you have to love his competitiveness under different scenarios,” Pletcher said. “He would give you everything he has, whether he’s running two furlongs or two miles. The Classic has been in the back of our mind since we won it last year. We freshened him with this in mind since last winter. We’ll give him a chance to defend his title against arguably the best horse in training.”
Pletcher also brings along Grade 3 Excelsior runner up Mordi’s Miracle (12-1) and recent Alw-3 optional claiming winner Percussion (12-1).
Ron the Greek (5-2) was no match for Game On Dude in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap last out, but the Bill Mott trainee did win a couple of Grade 1 races last year and figures to take some support.
Completing the field are Santa Anita Handicap runner up Clubhouse Ride (8-1) and Excelsior third place finisher Isn’t He Perfect (20-1).
Post time for West Virginia’s richest race is 10:30 ET, the 12th race on the 13-race card that gets underway at 5:00 ET. There are five stakes on the card including the $200,000 Sugar Maple for fillies and mares.
Let’s head out to Charles Town for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Charles Town Race 12 The Charles Town Classic (G2) Post time 10:30 ET
6. Caixa Eletronica 6-1
3. Game On Dude 4-5
5. Ron the Greek 5-2
1. Mordi’s Miracle 12-1
Caiaxa Eletronica is the defending champion in this race, pulling off the upset last year returning $18.80, which was his first trip over the tight turns at Charles Town. The eight year old was claimed by owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher for $62,500 back in march of 2011. He has won eight times since that claim, and a $1 million payday today would make him one of the top claims of all-time. He comes into this race off a win in the Uncle Mo at six furlongs on the inner track in his first start off a 3 ½ month break.
He is going to get a good tracking trip off what could end up being a sharp early pace as Pletcher sends out two others in here that both can show speed, as will the chalk. The barn is 27% winners with runners making their second start off a 61-180 day layoff. He figures to offer the best value for the top spot here among the top three contenders. In addition he is getting seven pounds from the Dude.
Game On Dude comes in here for the Bob Baffert barn off three straight wins after tossing in a subpar effort as the beaten favorite in last fall’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. His speed figs in his last two starts tower over the rest of the field here, wins in the Grade 2 San Antonio and Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. His last pair of figs are career tops and they look as if they may be on the generous side. The runner up in those two races was Clubhouse Ride, who earned Beyers of 105 in each of those outings. His previous high was 94.
The gelding ran second in this race back in 2011 to Duke of Mischief over a sloppy track, earning a 97 Beyer. Does he regress off his back to back career tops or does he get involved in a fast early pace? He likely gets bet down below the 4-5 morning line, making him tough to back here for the top spot.
Ron the Greek was 9 ¼ lengths back of Game On Dude last out in the Santa Anita Handicap. The six year old earned a career top two back winning the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park in the slop. The Bill Mott trainee is going to be the beneficiary of what looks likely to be a strong early pace.
He still needs to work out a good trip on the tight turns, and there are three of them in this race. He looks unlikely to offer much value as the 5-2 morning line seems light.
WIN: Caixa Eletronica to win at 7-2 or better.
EXACTA: 3,6 / 1,3,5,6
TRIFECTA: 3,6 / 1,3,5,6 / 1,3,4,5,6
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