Tracy Farmer’s Commentatordrew post 6 and the popular 8-year-old gelding will be the likely favorite when he makes his 2009 debut in the inaugural Charles Town Classic, potentially worth $1 million on April 18.
Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Nick Zito, Commentator captured his second Whitney Handicap (gr. I) in 2008, part of a four-win season that also included romping victories in the Richter Scale (gr. II) and Massachusetts Handicaps. The son of Distorted Humor will make his first start since finishing third in the Nov. 28 Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.
An earner of more than $1.8 million from 21 starts, New York-bred Commentator will be making his first start in West Virginia. John Velazquez has the mount on the 123-pound high weight.
A contingent of West Coast challengers will also make the trip to Charles Town to challenge Commentator. The talented trio is headlined by Bobby Frankel’s Mast Track, winner of the 2008 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I). The 5-year-old bay horse finished off the board in an allowance turf race in his season debut last month at Santa Anita. Leading rider Julien Leparoux flies in for the mount.
Sharing in the plane ride from California with Mast Track were Herrick Racing’s Magnum, and Gary and Cecil Barber’s Zappa. Magnum, an 8-year-old Argentine-bred, won the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) two starts back. Zappa, from the barn of John Sadler, won the San Pasquel (gr. II) last year.
In all, there are seven graded stakes winners in the field. As the lone grade I winners, Commentator and Mast Track are the only horses running for the $1 million purse. The tiered purse structure has the remaining horses running for $500,000 to $750,000.
A field of 10 was drawn for the Charles Town Classic, a 1 1/8-mile test on dirt. Post time is set for 10 p.m. EDT.
A race prior to the Charles Town Classic, 10 fillies and mares will line up to contest the $250,000 Sugar Maple Stakes, run at 7 furlongs. Cowgirls Don’t Cry, winner of the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park last year, recently made a successful return to the races for trainer Mike Trombetta in winning an allowance race at Charles Town on March 28. Her main competition figures to come in the form of Weathered, winner of the Next Move Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct in her last start.
Also on the program are the $100,000 Webb Snyder Stakes for sprinters at 4 1/2 furlongs (Race 7), and $100,000 Blue and Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs (Race 8).
Charles Town Classic (Race 10, 10 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Dry Martini (FL), 114, Edgar S. Prado
2. Zappa (KY), 114, Alonso Quinonez
3. Researcher (VA), 116, Kendrick Carmouche
4. No Advantage (KY), 114, Brandon Whitacre
5. Ah Day (MD), 120, J. D. Acosta
6. Commentator (NY), 123, John R. Velazquez
7. Ea (KY), 116, Javier Castellano
8. Magnum (ARG), 120, David R. Flores
9. Delaware River (PA), 114, Paul A. Nicol, Jr.
10. Mast Track (KY), 114, Julien R. Leparoux