Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races is on a roll, and it has little to do with craps tables.
The April 16 Charles Town Classic, which this year was a grade III stakes for its third edition, has produced interesting follow-up: Third-place finisher Tizway won the Metropolitan Mile Handicap (gr. I); sixth-place finisher Awesome Gem won the Lone Star Handicap (gr. III), and second-place finisher Game On Dude was second in the Texas race; and last-place finisher Acclamation has won the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) and Jim Murray Handicap (gr. IIT).
Classic winner Duke of Mischief, meanwhile, is scheduled to make his next start in the grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs June 18.
The $1 million Classic is the centerpiece of the first of three big-event nights the West Virginia track has each year. The next one, the Sprint Festival, will be held June 18 and feature the $400,000 Red Legend Stakes, the richest race in the United States for 3-year-old sprinters.
“I don’t think it has maxed out yet,” said Erich Zimny, director of racing at Charles Town. “I think the events themselves get stronger as time goes on. Event nights can be used as marketing tools, and I think we’re seeing the results in our day-to-day racing programs.
“I think we can keep growing visibility by getting more eyes on our product.”
Money does that, too, by attracting quality horses. The Red Legend, a seven-furlong test around two turns at Charles Town, lured a full field of 10 including multiple stakes winner J P's Gusto, winner of last year’s Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) and an early favorite to make this year’s Triple Crown series.
Also entered is Decisive Moment, second in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) and 14th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I); Nacho Saint, owned by George and Lori Hall, who won the June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) with Ruler On Ice; and Little Drama, who scratched from the grade II Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont June 11 because of a sloppy track.
Other stakes in the Charles Town Sprint Festival are the $100,000 Wild and Wonderful, $75,000 Lady Charles Town, $75,000 Charles Town Invitational Dash Handicap, and two $50,000 stakes for West Virginia-bred runners—the Fancy Buckles and the Coin Collector.
Last year’s Red Legend winner, front-running Comedero, is entered in the Wild and Wonderful in a return trip to Charles Town. That race also is at seven furlongs.
First post time is 6 p.m. EDT, with the featured Red Legend slated as race 10 with a 10:30 p.m. post. The full card will be broadcast on HRTV.
Zimny said before he began working at Charles Town several years ago there was a perception that, even with purses fueled by gaming revenue, the racing was mediocre and couldn't attract national attention. People told him that’s the way it was, and it would always be that way, he said.
With a lot of work and some racing office changes, Charles Town began building an open stakes program designed to have national appeal. The Classic has been particularly productive.
“I couldn’t accept (the perception),” Zimny said. “I never believed it had to stay that way. Moving up the ladder (with stakes) is a goal of ours.”
$400,000 Red Legend Stakes (Race 10, 10:30 p.m. EDT), 3 Year-Olds, Seven furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Der Meister (PA), O Flores, 118, M L Rojas
2. Loranger Native (LA), M C Berry, 124, M Stidham
3. B G Suavecito (KY), J Hiraldo, 124, R J Granger
4. Black N Beauty (ON), T L Dunkelberger, 118, D L Romans
5. Vee's Accolade (FL), C D Dooley, 115, J P Terranova, II
6. J P's Gusto (KY), J D Acosta, 115, M E Hushion
7. Yankee Passion (KY), R A Vazquez, 118, J L Jones
8. Decisive Moment (FL), J L Castanon, 124, J D Arias
9. Little Drama (FL), K Carmouche, 124, D Fawkes
10. Nacho Saint (KY), J Valdivia Jr., 115, K J Breen