By Tom LaMarra, @BH_TLaMarra
The purse for the grade II Charles Town Classic will increase to $1.5 million in 2013 and award the winner $1 million under a revised payment structure.
The West Virginia Racing Commission Nov. 29 approved Charles Town's 2013 stakes schedule.
Based on 2012, the Charles Town Classic will offer the highest purse in North America outside of seven Breeders' Cup races and the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Charles Town officials said 32 horses that competed in the first four editions of the Classic have won a combined 71 stakes in their careers.
"In addition to furthering the Charles Town Classic as a brand-defining race, we are excited to put on this type of show for our fans in April," said Erich Zimny, vice president of racing at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. "We knew we'd always draw a very good field with the $1 million number, but moving it to $1.5 million and giving the seven-figure amount to the winner could make it that much more attractive to those one or two horses on the fence who could move the race up another notch."
With the winner receiving $1 million, $500,000 will be split among the remaining finishers. In another change, horses that have won a grade I stakes in the previous two years will be spared entry and starting fees, officials said.
The 1 1/8-mile Charles Town Classic, first run in 2009, was awarded grade III status for 2011 in its first year of eligibility. It received a bump to grade II for 2012, and track officials have said the goal is grade I status.
The Classic usually is joined by five or six other stakes on the program, which next year will begin at 5 p.m. EDT April 20. Those events and the rest of the 2013 stakes schedule will be released in December.
This year the $1 million Classic and $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II), both in the same older horse division, were run on the same weekend. In 2013 the Oaklawn Handicap will be held April 13.