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Dec 07, 2012

Up the Backstretch: Charles Town Classic a major hitter

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

(Sports Network) - Breeders' Cup Classic, Kentucky Derby and Charles Town Classic. These are now three of the richest thoroughbred races in the United States.

The Charles Town Classic joins the Breeders Cup and Run for the Roses in the upper tier of purses after receiving a 50 percent increase from $1 million to $1.5 million. The winner of the 1 1/8-mile Charles Town race will earn $1 million.

"We knew we'd always draw a very good field with the $1 million number," said Erich Zimny, Charles Town's vice president of racing operations. "But, the hope is, by moving it to $1.5 million and giving the seven figure amount to the winner it makes it that much more attractive to those one or two horses on the fence who have the ability to move the race up another notch."

The Classic, run on Charles Town's six-furlong track, is now worth more than both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. In a list provided by the track, the new $1.5 million purse moves the race into a tie with the Breeders' Cup Sprint as the ninth most valuable race in the United States.

"In addition to furthering the Charles Town Classic as a race that positively impacts the overall brand of our racing product, we're excited to put on this type of show for our fans in April," noted Zimny. "We couldn't be more proud for our program to host it."

According to Charles Town Races, the Classic is the sixth richest race in the world in thoroughbred's handicap horse division and second behind only the Breeders' Cup Classic in the United States.

The purse increase is, of course, driven by casino income at the track's Hollywood Casino. The Grade II race has attracted some of the biggest names among older thoroughbreds.

This year's renewal was won by trainer Todd Pletcher's Caixa Eletronica who won at odds of 8-1 over defending winner Duke of Mischief. The 2011 edition saw Duke of Mischief defeat Game On Dude with Tizway finishing third.

The first two runnings of the Charles Town Classic were captured by Researcher, although highly regarded Commentator and Mast Track competed in the inaugural race.

If a small track like Charles Town can afford to put up $1.5 million with the benefit of casino winnings, it becomes incumbent on the remaining tracks to follow suit and gain access to income from other forms of gambling.

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