Charles Town Races & Slots has long been known for sprints, particularly the 4 1/2-furlong variety. But it hasn’t been known for offering $500,000 in open sprint stakes on one card.
That will be the case June 21 when the West Virginia racetrack offers its first “Speed Festival,” the centerpiece of which is the $200,000 Charles Town Invitational Dash at the track’s popular 4 1/2-furlong distance. Charles Town has a three-quarter-mile racing surface, so the 4 1/2-furlong races start from the short chute on the upper backstretch.
The card is the richest in terms of open stakes in Charles Town history. The track for years has offered the West Virginia Breeders Classics, a series of stakes for state-bred horses that this year will be worth more than $1.8 million; it's scheduled for Oct. 18.
Other Speed Festival stakes are the $100,000 Lady Charles Town for 3-year-old fillies at 4 ½ furlongs, the $100,000 West Virginia Sprint Derby for 3-year-olds at 4 ½ furlongs, and the $100,000 Red Legend Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs. At Charles Town, seven-furlong races start at the top of the homestretch and cover two turns.
Track officials reported that 147 horses were nominated or invited for Speed Festival races. Trainer Anthony Dutrow led the way with 11 nominations, followed by Mark Shuman with nine, and Steve Asmussen Scott Lake with seven each. Other trainers with multiple nominations include New York-based Kiaran McLaughlin and Rick Violette Jr., along with Kentucky-based Michael Maker and Ronny Werner.
The top-weight invitee for the $200,000 Dash is Lindy Redding’s Ravalo, a multiple stakes winner trained by Donald Barr. Ravalo has won three consecutive stakes and is one of the top sprinters in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Other Dash invitees are Eaton’s Gift, winner of the grade II Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park; grade III winner Noonmark; and graded stakes winners High Finance and Lucky Island. Joey P., a multiple stakes-winning New Jersey-bred, also is invited.
The June 21 program at Charles Town includes the $50,000 Coin Collector Stakes for accredited West Virginia-bred 3-year-olds at 4 ½ furlongs. The lowest purse of the 10 primary races in the condition book for June 21 is $25,000.
First post is set for the customary 7:15 p.m. EDT. The four Speed Festival stakes will comprise a pick four. According to advertisements on HRTV, the network plans to broadcast the Speed Festival events.