This year’s edition of the Grade 2, $1 million Charles Town Classic brings together a field of 10 plus one also-eligible entrant and includes last year’s winner, Something Awesome, as well as Imperative, who won the race in 2014 and again in 2017. However, both previous winners enter this year’s race off two or more very poor recent efforts. Similarly, 2018 Charles Town Classic runner-up War Story enters the race off both a very poor effort and a five-month layoff. Diamond King earned his biggest win in the Federico Tesio stakes last year at the distance of the Classic and enters the race off a sharp win last month following nearly six months away from the races. Rally Cry finished fourth in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes last summer and won the Alydar Stakes at this distance the previous summer. Then there’s Runnin’toluvya, a local star who loves to win as evidenced by 11 victories in 14 races at Charles Town. The most recent of those wins came in the Russell Road Overnight Prep Stakes, the steppingstone to the Classic. Other entrants of note include Discreet Lover, who posted the 45.50-1 upset in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup last September, and Unbridled Juan, who finished second last month at this 1 1/8-mile distance in the Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes. Mongolian Groom, Nanoosh, and also-eligible Bobby G round out the field.
Runnin’toluvya doesn’t have any of the questions regarding form, fitness, recent races, or the ability to win at the distance of the Charles Town Classic, which many of the other entrants have. Going back to June of last year, Runnin’toluvya has reeled off eight straight wins and if not for a neck defeat last May would be going for his 11th win in a row. Many of the wins came against similar horses bred in West Virginia only, but Runnin’toluvya proved superior to his competition in all of those races as he was in front with an eighth of a mile to go and coasted home each time. Two of those wins came at the distance of the Classic, including a then career-best 107 Equibase Speed Figure effort last November in the A Huevo Stakes. Rested for more than four months, Runnin’toluvya returned last month in the local prep for the Classic, the Russell Road Overnight Prep Stakes at seven furlongs, and he picked up where he left off in the fall with an easy win. In the Russell Road, Runnin’toluvya earned a new career-best figure of 110, which was better than the 108 figure Imperative earned winning the race in 2017. Although the figure was not as good as the 118 figure Something Awesome earned winning the Classic last year, considering Runnin’toluvya will be making his second start off a layoff and is stretching out from seven to nine furlongs, which he did to win the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic Stakes last fall, a new best effort and figure are possible, which gives him a nice chance to post the upset and win this year’s Charles Town Classic.
Diamond King is another Classic entrant who has no questions of fitness as he just ran on March 22. That was his first effort against older horses and he passed the test with flying colors as he earned a career-best 108 Equibase Speed Figure winning by 3 3/4 lengths. On this weekend last year, Diamond King won the Federico Tesio Stakes when stretching out from one turn to two turns as he is doing here. As the Quality Road colt is making his second start following nearly six months off, a new career-best effort is entirely possible.
Rally Cry returns from more than seven months off but since his trainer is Todd Pletcher it is unlikely he will need a race before showing his best. According to STATS Race Lens, in the past two years, Pletcher has a strong 13-for-31 record with horses returning from a layoff of 180 days or more in a dirt route. John Velazquez rode Rally Cry to his biggest win when victorious by 8 3/4 lengths in the Alydar Stakes in August 2017 and at the distance of the Classic. That effort earned the horse a career-best 125 figure which, if repeated, would make him tough to beat. Winless in four races since then, Rally Cry had only two starts in 2018, both resulting in fourth-place finishes. However, considering Pletcher won this race in 2012 with Caixa Eletronica and again in 2016 with Stanford, I think Rally Cry may be up to the task.
Although not a win contender, Unbridled Juan should be considered for any exacta tickets played as he could finish second as he’s done nine times in 29 races, including four times at the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Classic. Unbridled Juan shows up for every race and is very competitive, having earned 106 figures when third and beaten a pair of necks in the John B. Campbell Stakes in February and when winning the Richard W. Small Stakes last November.
The rest of the field (with best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Bobby G (97), Discreet Lover (115), Imperative (108), Mongolian Groom (113), Nanoosh (105), Something Awesome (118) and War Story (118).
For exotic wagers, like the exacta: