It appears the $1 million Charles Town Classic, which ended up being a key race in the older horse division last year, will attract a full field of 10 for its fourth running April 14 at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
The Classic, which drew 54 nominees, is part of a six-stakes program that gets under way at 5 p.m. EDT at the West Virginia racetrack. Also on the card is the $200,000 Sugar Maple Stakes for fillies and mares and a new event, the $250,000 Robert Hilton Memorial Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.
The 1 1/8-mile Classic earned grade III status for its third running and this year is ranked grade II.
The Charles Town racing office reported several horses that ran in the Classic in one of the last two years—Tackleberry, Inherit the Gold, and Redding Colliery—are expected this year. Other names on the list are Eighttofasttocatch, Norman Asbjornson , Norvsky, Pants On Fire, Skipshot , and Ultimate Eagle.
B.J. Wright’s Ultimate Eagle was favored in the March 3 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) but finished 10th after a cutthroat speed duel killed his chances. The Michael Pender trainee, a 4-year-old colt by Mizzen Mast , won the 1 1/8-mile Strub Stakes (gr. II) in his previous start and probably would be the one to collar in the three-turn Charles Town Classic.
Johnston and Riggio’s Norvsky, an even fifth in the Santa Anita Handicap, has performed well in a limited number of starts on dirt. The 6-year-old Vronsky gelding is trained by Donald Warren and is a grade II winner on the turf in California.
Tackleberry, owned and trained by Luis Contreras, finished fourth on a sloppy track in last year’s Charles Town Classic. The 5-year-old Montbrook gelding made his first start of this year March 12 with a strong second-place finish behind Mucho Macho Man in the grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap at a mile around one turn and should move forward after that effort.
Two Maryland-bred runners in search of their first graded-stakes victory could have a big say in the outcome should they compete.
Sylvia Heft’s Eighttofasttocatch, a 6-year-old Not For Love gelding trained by Tim Keefe at Laurel Park, usually puts himself in the race early and has won three of six races at the distance. He never has competed at Charles Town.
Thomas McClay and Harry Nye’s Norman Asbjornson, second in the 2011 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct, has two starts this year: an allowance victory at Parx Racing and a solid third-place finish in the Excelsior Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct. Norman Asbjornson, a 4-year-old Real Quiet ridgling trained by Chris Grove, has raced competitively in both of his starts at 1 1/8 miles.
The field for the Classic and the rest of the April 14 program will be drawn April 11. TVG will provide live on-site coverage of the evening’s races.