The $1 million Charles Town Classic (G2) at Charles Town will be contested for the 11th time Saturday, and the previous ten renewals have produced some clear-cut clues to help us identify the most likely winner.
Favorites have not been very successful in the Charles Town Classic, probably because the 1 1/8-mile race features three turns over a six-furlong bullring racetrack, which tends to produce a wild race from start to finish. These conditions have also played strongly in favor of horses with outside post positions. Only two horses breaking from the rail have ever finished in the Classic’s trifecta.
Two previous Charles Town Classic winners, #5 Imperative (victorious in 2014 and 2017) and #7 Something Awesome (2018), will be back to seek additional glory, but both are aging and have struggled since returning from injury-induced layoffs. With that in mind, I’ll play against them both.
I’ll favor the chances of the three outside runners—#8 Runnin’toluvya, #9 War Story and #10 Unbridled Juan. The class play is certainly War Story, an accomplished graded stakes winner who has been beaten by a neck and a half-length in the last two renewals of the Classic. His strong form over this tricky track is a positive, and while he hasn’t run since November, trainer Jorge Navarro wins at a 32% rate with horses returning from long layoffs, and with seven triple-digit BRIS speed figures in his last nine starts, War Story is the most consistently fast horse in the Classic field.
Runnin’toluvya is a local sensation with an eight-race win streak under his belt. Although he’s primarily been a sprinter, Runnin’toluvya had little difficulty winning two 1 1/8-mile stakes races at Charles Town during the fall, and his exceptional early speed should give him a tactical advantage.
Unbridled Juan isn’t as accomplished as War Story and has never run at Charles Town, but he boasts strong form going 1 1/8 miles and has a relentless running style that tends to be effective in this race. His trainer, Jose Corrales, doesn’t run horses at Charles Town often, but he did send out Something Awesome to win the 2018 Classic.
Rather than attempt to split hairs in this challenging race, I’ll box War Story, Runnin’toluvya, and Unbridled Juan in the exacta and trifecta, while adding the up-and-comer #3 Diamond King and the occasionally brilliant #4 Rally Cry to the bottom slot of the trifecta:
$2 exacta: 8,9,10 with 8,9,10 ($12)
$1 trifecta: 8,9,10 with 8,9,10 with 3,4,8,9,10 ($18)