Lucrative Charles Town Classic lures 10 top-class talents

A terrific 10-horse field will duke it out for a $1.25 million purse in the Grade II Charles Town Classic at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia this Saturday. It’ll go as Race 12 on the program with an approximate post time of 6:05 p.m. EST.

The favorite, and my top selection, is #4 DONWORTH (3-1). I’m drawing a line through his last race, the Santa Anita Handicap, in which he got a troubled trip and clipped heels around the far turn. I wish he would’ve shown a little more fight instead of finishing seventh, but I think he’ll get a better trip today and cutting back a furlong should help. If he repeats his San Antonio effort from two starts ago he has a strong chance to win this. Being the lightest-raced horse in the field with just six races under his belt, it’s possible we have yet to see the best he has to offer.

#7 STANFORD (9-2) is among the few horses in here that like to be forwardly placed, which should work to his advantage. I think it’s safe to say if he hadn’t drifted out late in his last start, the Gulfstream Park Handicap, he would’ve won. The question about STANFORD today is whether or not he can handle the added furlong. Javier Castellano is making the trip to ride him, which should be taken into consideration.

#9 PAGE MCKENNEY (6-1) has an incredible streak of 23 straight in-the-money finishes going, including a third-place effort in this race last year. His last few speed figures make him competitive in here, but I wonder if he is classy enough to beat these prolific shippers.

#5 IMPERATIVE (7-2) came up empty when settling for fourth in the Santa Anita Handicap last time but his prior two runner-up results in the San Antonio and San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita make him live in here. IMPERATIVE was a surprising second at a big price when he ran in this race last year, so he has to be considered a real threat, especially considering Hall-of-Famer Mike Smith is flying in to ride. The biggest knock against him is his low morning-line, considering he is a little camera-shy (3-for-30 lifetime record).

The field is fairly evenly-matched, so the exotics payoffs should be nice even if the favorites come in on top.

The play: $5 exacta 4/5,7,9, $5 exacta 7/4 ($20)

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