In its four runnings, the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic has attracted 32 different runners who have captured a total of 71 graded stakes between them, with 12 of those coming in races currently a part of the Breeders' Cup's "Win & You're In" Challenge series.
However, for its fifth running on April 20, the Charles Town Classic looks to take the next step up in the hierarchy of handicap division races as the 1 1/8 mile event will now offer a guaranteed purse of $1.5 million -- up from the $1 million in available money offered since its inception.
With the $500,000 purse increase, the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic now stands alone as the richest Thoroughbred race run in the United States outside of the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup.
"In addition to furthering the Charles Town Classic as a race that positively impacts the overall brand of our racing, we're excited to put on this type of event for our fans in April," Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races Vice President of Racing Operations Erich Zimny said. "We couldn't be more proud for our program to host it."
The increase also moves the Charles Town Classic up on the global scale in the handicap division with the race held in West Virginia's eastern panhandle eclipsed only by the Dubai World Cup, Breeders' Cup Classic and a trio of races in Japan in terms of money offered to its participants.
The $1.5 million figure also comes with one added wrinkle; the division of money will not follow the traditional purse splits from prior years. Instead, the winner of the 2013 Charles Town Classic will be guaranteed a flat payout $1 million with the remainder being divided amongst the other participants.
"We knew we'd always draw a very good field with the $1 million number," Zimny said. "But, the hope is, by moving it to $1.5 million and giving the seven figure amount to the winner it makes it that much more attractive to those one or two horses on the fence who have the ability to move the race up another notch."
In addition to the increased money available to all starters, horses having captured a Grade 1 in the two years prior to the race will have the added incentive of all entry and starting fees being waived should they break from the gate.
Historically, the inaugural Charles Town Classic in 2009 drew the defending champions of both the Whitney Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup in Commentator and Mast Track. The horses contesting the 2010 edition would go on to amass more than $9.1 million in lifetime earnings and formed a deep enough field that eventual multiple Grade 1 winner Tizway would be left on the also-eligible list.
After the 2011 Charles Town Classic received Grade 3 status in its first year of eligibility, Tizway would get his chance in the race and turned in a third place finish behind Duke of Mischief and fellow Eclipse Award finalist Game on Dude, who was exiting a win in the Santa Anita Handicap. Joining the first three finishers was eventual 2011 champion older horse Acclamation, which marked the only time all year the three Eclipse Award finalists would meet on the track. The 2011 race also marked the first time a non-Breeders' Cup race in the United States was comprised of 10 or more starters, with every one being a graded stakes winner, since the 2006 Arlington Million.
Following an upgrade to a Grade 2 for this year, the 2012 Charles Town Classic would once again duplicate that feat, filling its entire gate with horses already having won a graded stakes.
The 2013 Charles Town Classic is scheduled for April 20 and will be part of a 13-race card that begins at 5 p.m. (EST). The remainder of the stakes on Charles Town Classic day, as well as the track's complete 2013 stakes calendar, will be released in the coming weeks.