Charles Town Classic: Art Collector Chasing Repeat, Mind Control Stretches Out - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Charles Town Classic: Art Collector Chasing Repeat, Mind Control Stretches Out

Art Collector winning the 2022 Alydar at Saratoga

Bruce Lunsford's Art Collector returns to Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races on Friday night as he looks to defend his crown in the track's marquee event of 2022 – the $1,000,000 Charles Town Classic (G2).

The Charles Town Classic joins the Charles Town Oaks (G3), a trio of other stakes each worth $250,000 and a pair of $75,000 restricted stakes on Charles Town's biggest card of the year, which gets underway at 5:00 P.M. EST. The night also offers some terrific wagering opportunities for horseplayers with a $100,000 guaranteed Pick 5 that kicks off in Race 9, a $100,000 guaranteed Pick 4 that starts with Race 10 and a mandatory distribution of the Charles Town 6-12 carryover that currently sits at $23,527.

Trained by Bill Mott, Art Collector will look to replicate the path he took to West Virginia's eastern panhandle in 2021 when he also captured the Alydar Stakes at Saratoga prior to his run in the Classic. Unlike last year, Art Collector came into the 2022 Alydar off a lengthy layoff following his trip to the Middle East and the $20 million Saudi Cup but didn't disappoint with a dominating effort that could have signaled a return to his 2021 form that saw him capture the Charles Town Classic and Grade 1 Woodward.

“The Alydar was a good comeback for him,” said Art Collector's Hall of Fame conditioner. “It looked like he did everything effortlessly. He came back out of it well. There's no reason to think he's not coming into the race as well this year as he was last year.”

Much like Mott, Lunsford is confident in the way the 5-year-old has exited the Alydar and is looking forward to getting back to West Virginia on Friday evening.

“It was a little bit of a tough winter with him, but once we got him back over here, he's been doing great. He actually ran better this year in the Alydar than he did last year. And he's been training really well since, so we feel like he's coming into the race great. He's in good hands with Bill.”

Art Collector will be trying to buck some recent history as the last eight horses attempting to win back-to-back Charles Town Classics have come up short, with the most recent being Sleepy Eyes Todd in 2021.

Luis Saez has the return call on Art Collector and will leave from Post 4.

Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stable's multiple Grade 1 winner Mind Control has routinely made his mark in his career in one turn events with the highlights being victories in the Hopeful (G1) as a 2-year-old and the Allen Jerkens (G1) in his sophomore campaign. But last time out in the Salvator Mile (G3) at Monmouth, the now 6-year-old son of Stay Thirsty notched the first two-turn graded stakes triumph in his career by winning a stretch battle with the Grade 1 winning multimillionaire Hot Rod Charlie.

While the Salvator Mile was his first graded win going two-turns, Mind Control tipped off his ability to go longer in his last start of 2021 – a win over Met Mile (G1) winner Silver State in the $200,000 Parx Dirt Mile.

Taking a horse known more for his sprint prowess and stretching him out with success in the Charles Town Classic wouldn't be something new for Pletcher who sent out Caixa Eletronica to a win ten years ago in the 2012 edition. He would later win his second Classic with Stanford in 2016.

John Velazquez makes the trip down from Saratoga to ride Mind Control in the Charles Town Classic.

Pletcher and Mott aren't the only Hall of Fame trainers represented in the Charles Town Classic as legendary conditioner D. Wayne Lukas will saddle his first horse at Charles Town in twelve years when he sends out Willis Horton Racing's Oaklawn Handicap (G2) upsetter Last Samurai.

Lukas himself is in the midst of a successful 2022 that's seen him win the Kentucky Oaks (G1) for a fifth time with Secret Oath, the Adirondack (G3) at Saratoga with Naughty Gal and unleash multiple 2-year-old's with promise including impressive Saratoga maiden winner Bourbon Bash.

As for his 4-year-old son of Malibu Moon, he had struggled to find his niche, racing on both dirt and turf and at distances ranging from seven furlongs to 1 1/2 miles within the first ten starts of his career before eventually breaking through for his signature win in the $1,000,000 Oaklawn Handicap. Last Samurai followed that win up with subpar efforts in the Stephen Foster (G2) and R.A. Cowboy Jones Overnight Stakes at Ellis Park, but looks to rebound on Friday night.

Last Samurai's regular pilot Jon Court has the call on Friday night and leaves from Post 3.

Vesgo Racing Stable's homebred Officiating exits a score in the Cornhusker Handicap (G3) at Prairie Meadows in last start. Much like fellow Classic entrant Mind Control, the Saffie Joseph trainee had previously had his most success sprinting in the graded stakes ranks with wins in both the Mr. Prospector (G3) at Gulfstream Park and Tom Fool (G3) at Aqueduct.

By Blame out of the Dixie Union mare Come a Callin – who also produced Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies' and Eclipse Award winner Caledonia Road – Officiating's pedigree page doesn't reveal many distance challenges and his trainer believes his tactical speed should serve him well around the Charles Town oval.

“Tactically, he's a horse who wants to be forwardly placed, especially stretching out so that certainly helps at Charles Town,” said the Barbados native who has sent out Math Wizard and Ny Traffic in the last two Chares Town Classics. “He's a hard-trying horse. We tried turf, and he ran well, but he got much better on the dirt. Then we hit a little plateau with him sprinting, so we stretched him out and it went well, and that's when we pointed to Charles Town.”

Javier Castellano, the only rider to win the Charles Town Classic three times, will ride Officiating.

Charles Town's local contingent is far from without hope as undefeated West Virginia-bred Muad'dib will put his perfect 10-for-10 record on the line in his first try in unrestricted stakes company.

Out of the barn of Jeff Runco, who himself is a perfect 2-for-2 in the Classic sending out Researcher to his wins in both 2009 and 2010, Muad'dib is a full sibling to multiple graded stakes winner Late Night Pow Wow and has summarily dispatched virtually all of his opponents to date but his trainer certainly recognizes Friday will represent a step up in class.

“This is a big step up for the horse,” said Runco – who currently sits 12th amongst trainers on the all-time wins list in North American Thoroughbred racing history. “He tries hard every time. Does what he has to do. But this race is a whole different dimension facing the kind of horses he's going to have to face. But he's doing great. It's his home track. If he gets a trip, anything could happen.”

Runco is no stranger to success in the Charles Town Classic as he remains the only trainer to saddle back-to-back winners, but also assents to some differences between his past champion and current hope.

“Researcher won everywhere, and he ran against some real, serious horses. So he had already been tested. This is going to be the test for Muad'dib. He has the hometown advantage. He obviously loves the track, and he's unbeaten. It's a million-dollar race right in his backyard. You can't get too caught up in being undefeated and focus too much on his record. Obviously it would be great if he stayed undefeated, but it's about doing what's best for the horse and for [Owner] David [Raim], and so if he wins and stays undefeated, great. But if he gets beat and gives a good account of himself, that's fine too.”

Charles Town's leading rider Arnaldo Bocachica – aboard for all ten of Muad'dib's outings – will once again be in the irons.

Laurel Park based Plot the Dots and a pair from the Normal Cash barn in 2021 DeFrancis Dash (G3) winner Jalen Journey and Treasure Trove complete the lineup.

The Charles Town Classic is scheduled as Race 12 on the card with a post time of 10:18 EST.

$1,000,000 CHARLES TOWN CLASSIC (G2)

August 26, 2022

Race 12 – Post time 10:18pm EST

3&up, 1 1/8 Miles

PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer

1. Plot the Dots, Angel Cruz, 118, Claudio A. Gonzalez

2. Mind Control, John R. Velazquez, 120, Todd A. Pletcher

3. Last Samurai, Jon K. Court, 120, D. Wayne Lukas

4. Art Collector, Luis Saez, 118, William I. Mott

5. Treasure Trove, J.D. Acosta, 118, Normal L. Cash

6. Officiating, Javier Castellano, 120, Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.

7. Muad'dib, Arnaldo Bocachica, 118, Jeff C. Runco

8. Jalen Journey, Angel S. Arroyo, 118, Norman L. Cash

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