Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector validated his status as the 1.30-1 favorite by overcoming a stubborn defending champion in Sleepy Eyes Todd and taking down the top prize in the $800,000 Charles Town Classic (G2) at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia on Friday night. Ridden by Luis Saez, the son of Bernardini became the first favorite to win the Charles Town Classic since Game on Dude in 2013.
Sleepy Eyes Todd – trying to become the first repeat Classic winner since Researcher in 2010 – was sent to the lead and carved out opening fractions of 23.80 and 47.90 for the first quarter and half mile under rider Ry Eikleberry, with Art Collector glued to his flank for much of the early running. With Saez and Art Collector seizing the lead, they appeared poised to draw off for a convincing win but were fought every step of the way by the world traveling Sleepy Eyes Todd before prevailing by a length and a half at the wire.
“I thought I had him [Sleepy Eyes Todd] turning for home,” said Saez. “He looked like he was going pretty well and that’s why I tried to attack pretty early. Art Collector gave me that kick but he was fighting in the stretch. It was just a great finish.”
In winning the Classic, Art Collector gave his Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott his first victory at the West Virginia oval.
California shipper Rushie finished 5 1/2 lengths back of Art Collector in third with another west coast presence in Restrainedvengence rounding out the superfecta.
On the wagering front, the $7,179,783 wagered on Friday night’s Charles Town Classic card established a new single card handle record for the track, shattering the previous mark of $5,720,375 set on the 2019 Classic card.
“We couldn’t be happier with the way the night unfolded, the way our horseplayers and fans responded and the record handle that resulted,” said Charles Town’s Vice President of Racing and Sports Operations Erich Zimny. “It’s a testament to the job that our Director of Racing, Charlie McIntosh, and the racing office staff did in putting such a deep and competitive card together that we can’t wait to expand upon in 2022.”
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