$750,000 Charles Town Oaks Becomes Richest 3-Year-Old Filly Sprint Stakes In North America - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

$750,000 Charles Town Oaks Becomes Richest 3-Year-Old Filly Sprint Stakes In North America

Art Collector winning the Charles Town Classic under Luis Saez for the second year in a row

Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races has released its 2023 stakes schedule following approval by the West Virginia Racing Commission at a Tuesday morning meeting.

Charles Town's biggest day on the 2023 calendar follows up on a format that started in 2020, as Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races presents both of its graded stakes — the $1 million Charles Town Classic (G2) and $750,000 Charles Town Oaks (G3) — on the same Friday, Aug. 25 card. The Classic and Oaks card gets underway with a special first post of 5 p.m. Eastern.

This year's Charles Town Oaks received a purse increase to $750,000, making it the richest sprint race for 3-year-old fillies in North America. Last year's edition was won by Society for owner Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds LLC, trainer Steve Asmussen, and jockey Tyler Gaffalione. Society went on to capture the Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx in her subsequent start, becoming the 7th Grade 1 or future-Grade 1-winning Charles Town Oaks alumna in the race's 14-year history.

For the first time since local hero Researcher won the first two editions of the Charles Town Classic, 2022 saw a repeat winner of the track's signature event, as Bruce Lunsford's Art Collector pulled off the feat in wire-to-wire fashion under jockey Luis Saez. The Grade 1-winning Bill Mott-trainee will look to add to his resume this Saturday in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

While unable to match the win of fellow West Virginia-bred Runnin'toluvya, David Raim's Muad'dib continued a trend of success for local runners in the Classic by finishing second in last year's running, before pulling off a repeat of his own in the Sam Huff West Virginia Breeders' Classic. The Jeff Runco-trainee will be pointed to the Charles Town Classic again in 2023, looking to improve on that second-place performance under Charles Town's reigning five-time leading rider Arnaldo Bocachica.

In addition to the Charles Town Oaks (G3), one other unrestricted stakes race on the Classic night undercard — the Robert Hilton Memorial for straight 3-year-olds — received a purse hike to $350,000. The two other unrestricted stakes — the Russell Road and Misty Bennett Pink Ribbon — remain at $250,000.

Since moving the Charles Town Classic and Oaks to the same card in 2020, the blockbuster program has produced three of the four largest single-card handles in track history, with the two largest coming in 2021 and 2022.

“We're incredibly pleased with the business results of the last three Charles Town Classic programs and look forward to ramping up the card this August,” said Charlie McIntosh, Charles Town's Director of Racing Operations. “The quality of the Charles Town Oaks fields have been exceptional and we feel making the Oaks the richest three-year-old filly stakes race in the country will continue that positive momentum for years to come.”

Charles Town's 2023 stakes schedule features 24 stakes races worth an even $4 million in total purses. These totals exclude the West Virginia Breeders' Classics XXXVII card scheduled for October 14th, with purses to be announced at a later date for the state's premier night for West Virginia-breds. For the first time, all non-Futurity or Breeders Classics' state-bred stakes races will be run for $75,000 in 2023. The stakes schedule kicks off on April 15 with the Original Gold Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares, with seven more state-bred stakes to follow over the course of April, May, June, and July, with four more scheduled for the Charles Town Classic and Oaks undercard.

One other notable change to the stakes program is the renaming of the Eleanor Casey Memorial to the James and Eleanor Casey Memorial, after the recent passing of West Virginia racing icon James W. Casey.

The 2023 racing calendar calls for 164 days of live racing, including a Wednesday through Saturday schedule in January, February, November, and December with racing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the remainder of the year. Post time for all but Charles Town Classic and Oaks day is 7 p.m. Eastern.

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