Stanford leads rivals on merry chase in Charles Town Classic
Sent from post 7, Stanford loped through fractions of :24.75, :48.86, and 1:13.75 with Page McKenney tracking in second a half-length behind. Coming under brief pressure from that rival around the last turn, Stanford began to find more and pulled away to a larger lead in the stretch.
"He broke very sharp and there wasn't that much speed in the race," Castellano said. "He broke well and I just enjoyed the ride. I thought the fractions were pretty comfortable."
At the wire, Stanford was two lengths clear of Page McKenney and covered 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.55. He paid $9.40 as the 7-2 third choice in a field of 10.
This was the second Charles Town Classic win for Castellano and trainer Todd Pletcher, who teamed up to win the 2012 renewal with the ill-fated Caixa Eletronica. Stanford is owned by Stonestreet Stables, in whose colors he competed here, along with the Coolmore connections of Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derek Smith.
"No firm plans from here but we might consider the Met Mile," said Pletcher, referring to the $1.25 million handicap at Belmont Park June 11.
The hard-knocking, Maryland-based gelding Page McKenney, who entered the Classic on a four-stakes win streak, improved off his third in last year's Classic with a runner-up effort here. It was 1 3/4 lengths back to Donworth, the 2-1 favorite invading from California, who finished a neck in front of Imperative, the 2014 Charles Town Classic winner and 2015 runner-up.
This was the first graded stakes win for Stanford, whose lone previous added-money victory occurred in last season's $103,000 Long Branch at Monmouth Park. He had placed in two of four stakes attempts before that, including a narrow loss to International Star, a Classic also-ran, in the Louisiana Derby (G2).
Unplaced in his sophomore finale following the Long Branch, Stanford was out more than six months before reappearing in the Fred W. Hooper (G3) at Gulfstream February 6. Second to stablemate Tommy Macho there, he was second to another stablemate, Blofeld, by a head in the Gulfstream Park H. (G2) when last seen March 5.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm and a $550,000 Barretts March juvenile in training purchase, Stanford has now earned $1,159,800 from a line of 11-4-4-0. He was reared by the Distorted Humor mare Rosy Humor, and is from the family of 2001 juvenile champion Johannesburg, English and Irish highweight Minardi and noted sire Tale of the Cat.