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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:59 PM

At the Gate - Saturday

The richest race of the day is not at Keeneland, Santa Anita or Aqueduct but instead in West Virginia where a field of 10 line up in the $1 million Charles Town Classic (G2).

Charles Town was the very first racetrack I visited, dragged there when I was 18 years old by a friend who owned a $2,500 claimer that as running. The horse finished dead last, but I was hooked on the game.

Just when it looked like the track would close along came slots and gaming, and the track was rejuvenated, and in 2009 the track came up with the idea of hosting a $1 million race for the handicap division.

It worked and the purse actually was raised to $1.5 million in 2013, the year Game On Dude shipped in from California to win for trainer Bob Baffert.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the race twice, with Caixa Eletronica in 2012 and Stanford in 2016.

This year’s edition has brought back two former champs. Last year’s winner Something Awesome is back. Trained by Jose Corrales, the gelding paid $20.60 last year.

Imperative is back. The Anthony Quartarolo trainee won the race in 2017.

Also in the field is War Story, who has competed in the race twice. The Jorge Navarro trainee was third in 2017 and last year was beaten just a neck.

My Best Plays for Saturday includes my 11 strongest plays from Aqueduct, Keeneland and Oaklawn Park.

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Here is the opening race from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:

AQU Race 1 Clm $32,000 (1:30 ET)

2 Lazarus Project 7-2

1 I'm an Ocala Dude 7-5

3 River Echo 5-2

5 Still Krz 3-1

Analysis: Lazarus Project tracked the early pace and was no match for the winner in a runner up finish in the Peeping Tom, a starter stake. The winner was Bon Raison, who came back to beat Alw-2 optional claimers in his next outing on April 18. The RRod barn claimed this guy for $30,000 two back and now puts him back in for a tag. His last win was three back against $16,000 foes and while he is just 1 for 10 on wet tracks, he has landed din the money in six of the outings.

I'm an Ocala Dude stalked the early pace and did not have enough punch left late in a fifth-place finish against $25,000 starter allowance foes. This group does not look as tough and he has earned solid numbers over his last three starts including a win three back against restricted $14,000 claimers. He has a win over a wet track and owns solid early and mid pace numbers. Like the jock switch here to Franco.

WIN: #2 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 2 / 1,3
TRI: no play

Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:

AQU Race 8 The NY Stallion Series (5:15 ET)

6 Kid Is Frosty 5-1

5 Newly Minted 8-5

8 Stonesintheroad 2-1

9 Bangle Gal 6-1

Analysis: Kid Is Frosty tracked the early pace, got the front briefly and finished up well while unable to match stride late with the winner in a runner up finish against state bred Alw-1 optional claimers in her first start against winners. She graduated two back in a game effort with the runner up Behind the Couch a next out grad on March 22 here. She looks headed in the right direction form wise for a sharp barn in Cox. Irad picks up the call and the 5-1 morning line looks fair enough.

Newly Minted ran big breaking her maiden in her debut for the Rice barn that has much better numbers with runners making their second career start. She took the field gate to wire in the mud and drew clear to win by 5 3/4 lengths and earned the top last out speed fig. She likely catches another wet track here, but she is wheeling back quick and is going to be a light price.

WIN: #6 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 5,6 / 5,6,8,9
TRI: 5,6 / 5,6,8,9 / 5,6,7,8,9

Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Keeneland:

KEE Race 6 Clm $20,000N2L (3:51 ET)

2 Hollywood Strike 5-1

1 Sergio 5-1

6 Sensational Sam 9-2

5 Lethal Levy 4-1

Analysis: Hollywood Strike set the early fractions and weakened to finish third last out against $30,000 non-winners of two at Gulfstream Park. The winner and fourth place finisher exited that race to win next out. In fact, this guy has run into repeat winners in four of his last six starts. This group does not look as tough and he is bred to handle a wet track.

Sergio made a mild late run to finish fourth last out here going 6 1/2 furlongs at this level. He broke his maiden tow back for a $20,000 tag at Santa Anita. Pedigree wise he should be able to handle the stretch out to nine furlongs. He ran pretty well on a wet track three back.

WIN: #2 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 1,2 / 1,2,5,6
TRI: 1,2 / 1,2,5,6 / 1,2,5,6,8

Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Charles Town:

CT Race 2 Alw $50,000 (1:00 ET)

4 Rally Cry 9-2

9 War Story 7-2

6 Discreet Lover 5-1

3 Diamond King 4-1

Analysis: Rally Cry is sent out by Todd Pletcher, who seeks his third win in this race with this six-year-old who makes his first start since running fourth in the Woodward (G1) at the Spa last September. That was just his second start last year after a fourth against optional claimers off the bench. In ’17 he won twice in six starts and ran huge in both of those wins. He earned a 110 Beyer winning the restricted Alydar at the Spa at nine furlongs and a 105 beating second level allowance foes. He prepped at Palm Beach Downs for his return and good to see Johnny V. is in to ride. He owns solid early and mid pace numbers and should be up front or sitting just off the pace and that is where you want to be on these tight turns. The barn is 33% winners (with a +ROI) with runners coming back off a +180-day layoff.

War Story is also coming off the bench. Last seen fading to finish sixth in the Marathon (G2) at Churchill Downs. He just missed in this race last year by a neck to Something Awesome and was third in this race in ’17 beaten just a half-length. Decent works on the morning tab in Florida for his return for the Navarro barn that is 33% winners with runners coming back off a +180-day layoff. This guy has amassed $2.6 million in earnings despite just six wins, but he fits here. I like to see Carmouche back on board, he just missed in the Greenwood Cup three back when he was aboard. Kendrick likely is aggressive early and should work out a good trip on or near the lead.

Discreet Lover has a habit of outrunning his odds and won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last September at 45-1 and was third in the Whitney (G1) at 39-1 and the Suburban (G2) at 41-1. He has been working quickly in the mornings at Philly for the St. Lewis barn that is just 1 for 31 with runners coming back off a 61-180-day layoff and has just one win overall with 61 starters this year. He ran in this race last year, checking in sixth at 29-1. His best puts him right in the hunt here but after going off at 13-1 or higher in eight starts, usually much higher, the 5-1 morning line sure looks light here.

WIN: #4 to win at 4-1 or better.
EX: 4,9 / 3,4,6,9
TRI: 4,9 / 3,4,6,9 / 2,3,4,6,9

Live Longshots:
These are price plays for exotic players looking to find a couple of extra contenders to use in their trifecta and superfecta wagers. Or for those with smaller bankrolls, you might want to get in a small win-place wager.

R4: #2 Malarkey 8-1
R6: #7 English Bee 8-1
R9: #1 Kosciouszko 8-1

Good luck today!

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