Competitive field assembled for Charles Town Classic
Among those lining up will be 2014 winner Imperative, who returns for a third straight go at the race; Grade 1 scorer Hard Aces; New Orleans H. (G2) victor S’maverlous; multiple Grade 2 hero International Star; and General George (G3) conqueror Page McKenney.
Imperative actually hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since upsetting the 2014 Charles Town Classic at 26-1. The Richard Baltas pupil has, however, placed in a number of events, including this season’s San Antonio (G2) and San Pasqual (G2). The six-year-old gelding also filled the runner-up spot in last year’s edition of the Charles Town Classic behind record-setting Moreno, and gets jockey Mike Smith in the irons on Saturday.
Hard Aces beat Imperative in the Santa Anita H. (G1) last out, finishing second to that rival’s fourth-placing, and is looking for a first win of his own since taking the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) in June 2015. The John Sadler pupil’s best finish following that event came last out in the Big ‘Cap on March 12, and Hard Aces will try to go one spot better with Abel Lezcano returning to the saddle.
S’maverlous could end up being this year’s Imperative, as the former claimer provided a 20-1 upset of the New Orleans H. (G2) last out while making his stakes bow for trainer Mike Maker. Jose Lezcano was aboard that day and retains the mount on the six-year-old gelding as he goes for a Grade 2 double.
International Star is no stranger to stakes company, as the four-year-old colt made a name for himself on last year’s Kentucky Derby trail. Trained by Maker for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the bay son of Fusaichi Pegasus swept the three-year-old preps at Fair Grounds – Lecomte (G3), Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) – but then was scratched just days before the Kentucky Derby with a foot problem.
International Star raced just once more last season, with that coming in late November, and thus far this year has captured the Louisiana H., finished fourth in the Mineshaft H. (G3) and filled the third spot before being elevated to second in the New Orleans ‘Cap. Jose Ortiz has the call for the first time on the colt.
Page McKenney is one of the top runners on the Mid-Atlantic circuit, taking five of his last six races including the General George. The Mary Eppler-trained six-year-old rallied for a head victory on that occasion and brings along regular rider Horacio Karamanos for this repeat try in the Charles Town Classic. The chestnut gelding finished third in last year’s edition.
The remaining runners in the Charles Town Classic are Sonny Inspired, who sandwiched a third in the General George between a pair of Laurel Park stakes wins; multiple stakes hero Charitable Annuity; Grade 2-placed stakes winner Donworth; multiple Grade 2-placed stakes scorer Stanford; and Essex H. victor La Macchina.
Stakes-placed Incremental needs someone to scratch to draw in as an also-eligible.
Page McKenney photo courtesy of Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
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