Art Collector winning the 2022 Alydar at Saratoga
Title defender and Grade 1 winner Art Collector leads a list of 126 nominations for the Classic Town Classic and Charles Town Oaks, which closed this past Friday. The Classic and Oaks will both be run on Charles Town’s biggest night of the year – Friday, Aug. 26 – a card that includes a total of seven stakes races with $2.4 million in purse money on the line.
Owned by Bruce Lunsford and trained by Bill Mott, Art Collector will take the same route to West Virginia’s eastern panhandle as he did in 2021, when he won the Alydar Stakes at Saratoga three weeks prior to his run in the Classic. This year’s Alydar marked the son of Bernardini’s first start in more than five months following a disappointing effort overseas in the $20 million Saudi Cup.
The now 5-year-old Art Collector will look to join Researcher as the only horse to win the Charles Town Classic in consecutive years. The last eight horses attempting to win West Virginia’s richest race in back-to-back years have come up short, with the last being Sleepy Eyes Todd who checked in as the runner-up to Art Collector in the 2021 edition.
Trainer Brad Cox has a quartet of horses nominated to the Classic, topped by 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mandaloun, most recently fourth in the San Diego (G2) at Del Mar. Mandaloun is one of two Juddmonte nominees, with the second coming in the form of multiple graded stakes winner Fulsome whose most recent tally in graded stakes company came on Saturday when he won the West Virginia Governor’s Stakes (G3) on Mountaineer Park’s West Virginia Derby undercard . Cox is also represented in the nominations by Night Ops and multiple graded stakes winner Plainsman who scored in the Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn Park in February.
Five horses from the barn of two-time Charles Town Classic winning trainer Todd Pletcher are nominated, headlined by Grade 1 victor Americanrevolution who scratched out of Saturday’s Whitney (G1) at Saratoga and Brooklyn (G2) winner Fearless, owned by Repole Stables who teamed with Pletcher to capture the 2012 Charles Town Classic with Caixa Eletronica. Pletcher also has Bal Harbour, Grade 1 winner Mind Control and Promise Keeper who took the 2021 running of the Peter Pan (G3) nominated.
Two of Chad Brown’s three nominees – Highly Motivated and Pipeline – came off strong efforts where the pair finished first and second in the Monmouth Cup (G3) on the Haskell undercard. Following a narrow defeat in the Blue Grass (G2), Highly Motivated checked in tenth as the fifth betting choice in the 2021 Kentucky Derby before being sent to the sidelines for the remainder of the year. His Monmouth Cup score marked his second straight win after dropping his first race of 2022. Brown’s third nominee is recent allowance winner Stage Raider who is a half-brother to 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify.
Other graded stakes winners nominated to the Classic include recent San Diego winner Royal Ship, Last Samurai, who took the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) earlier this year, Tokyo City (G3) hero Heywood’s Beach, 2021 Ohio Derby (G3) winner Masqueparade who finished second to Art Collector in the Alydar, Officiating from the Saffie Joseph barn who won the Cornhusker (G3) at Prairie Meadows in his most recent outing, Steve Sexton Mile (G3) winner Silver Prospector, 2021 Salvator Mile (G3) upsetter Informative and Tax who won the Jim Dandy (G2) in 2019.
Possible for the Charles Town Classic is local star Muad’dib, who is a perfect 10-for-10 in his career but would be making his debut in the unrestricted stakes ranks. Muad’dib is conditioned by Jeff Runco, who took the first two editions of the Charles Town Classic with the aforementioned Researcher.
Thoroughbred racing’s all-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen will take aim at a third Charles Town Oaks score after winning the race’s inaugural running with Four Gifts in 2009 and Pauline’s Pearl last year. Asmussen has 2021 Adirondack (G2) winner Wicked Halo nominated as well as Society who took the overnight Monomoy Girl Stakes at Churchill downs prior to a fourth place effort in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1).
Brad Cox’s four Classic nominations are matched by his four for the Oaks with the biggest names being 2021 Alcibiades (G1) winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) runner-up Juju’s Map and recent Indiana Oaks (G3) victor Interstatedaydream who also emerged victorious in the Black Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico earlier this year. After starting this season with a win in a Churchill Downs allowance contest, Juju’s Map has checked in third in both the Mother Goose (G2) and Monmouth Oaks (G3).
Additional nominees for the Charles Town Oaks include one-two finishers in this weekend’s Test (G1) at Saratoga in Chi Town Lady and Hot Peppers – neither of which are expected for the race – as well as 2021 Sorrento (G2) winner Elm Drive, Victory Ride (G3) runner-up Half is Enough, Miss Preakness (G3) victor Lady Scarlet, Midnight Stroll who won the Delaware Oaks (G3) in her last outing and a trio of Grade 1 placed fillies in Dance to the Music, Divine Huntress and Tarabi.
Entries for the August 26 Charles Town Classic card will be taken on Tuesday, August 23.
Nominations for three more unrestricted stakes all worth $250,000 and all run at seven furlongs – the Misty Bennett Pink Ribbon Stakes for older fillies and mares, the Russell Road for older horses and the Robert Hilton Memorial for three-year-olds – close this upcoming Friday , August 12.