Charles Town Races held its biggest meet of the year on April 16th with six stakes races on the card. It had been raining off and on for the past two weeks and Saturday evening we had torrential downpours with tornado warnings. I thought I left plenty of time to get there but I had to take multiple detours because of washed out roads and missed the first race. Both the first and second races were delayed because of lightning, with the second going off 50 minutes behind schedule. But they shortened the time between races and were back on schedule by the big race, the 10th. Please contact me if you are interested in photos from the night.
The track was labeled “sloppy” and they weren’t kidding. Luckifee and Travis L. Dunkelberger won the second race while it was still thundering. I’m glad I wasn’t the tallest object out on that flat oval, wearing metal shoes no less.
Travis L. Dunkelberger was on a hot streak. He won three races, including the Webb Snyder Stakes on Immortal Eyes and they set a track record. The race was 4 1/2 furlongs – I didn’t even know that Thoroughbreds ran that short a distance, it was practically a Quarter Horse race!
A Maryland bred mare, Sweet Goodbye, won the $250,000 TVG Sugar Maple Stakes race with J.D. Acosta up.
The main race of the night was the $1m Charles Town Classic. This is the third year that it has been run and this year it was designated a Grade 3 stakes race. This was especially historic because in the 78 years since its founding there has never been a graded stakes race at Charles Town. The only sad note was that being a graded stakes race changed the entry criteria and Researcher, the horse that won the first two years and set a track record, was unable to get in. I thought he should have gotten an automatic slot as the reigning champion. But it was still a very exciting race and was the first non-Breeders’ Cup race since 2006 to have a field of 10 or more horses that had all won graded stakes races.
The winner was Duke of Mischief. Here he is going down to the start with jockey Joe Bravo. I wish I knew the pony rider’s name.
I mostly watch steeplechase and turf races and the handful of times I’ve been to Charles Town have mostly seen low level claiming races. Black type stakes winners running on dirt, even if sloppy, showed the sport at a whole other level. I was actually standing on the track and these horses were blazing past me. Duke of Mischief was flying as he crossed the finish line more than two lengths ahead of Game On Dude. Joe Bravo had a big smile as he went by.
Joe was rightfully very pleased with the performance!