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Jeff Nations

Charles Town gets first-ever Grade 2 race

The $1 million Charles Town Classic will be moving up another notch in 2012.

The Classic, which attained Grade 3 status this year in just its third running, drew a loaded field for April's race. It was the track's first-ever graded stakes race in 77 years of operation and nearly 100,000 races run. All 10 entries for the 2011 Classic were graded stakes winners, making it the first non-Breeders' Cup race in the U.S. to have 10 or more graded-stakes winners starting since the 2006 Arlington Million.

Besides eventual winner Duke of Mischief, runner-up Game On Dude was coming off a win in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. In all, the 10 Charles Town Classic starters combined for 16 graded stakes wins, including seven Grade 1 victories, in 2011.

The strength of that field for the 1 1/8-mile race helped boost the Classic's graded status in remarkable time, and with the prize money again set at $1 million there is every reason to believe an equally talented field can once more be lured to Charles Town.

"Every member of our team should be proud that their efforts and hard work are resulting in some historic firsts for our track," Charles Town Director of Racing Operations Erich Zimny said in a news release. "In 18 of the last 19 months, our average daily handle has grown versus the prior year's number and there are more eyes on racing in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia than there ever have been. We could not have accomplished that -- or sustain it -- without our event days."

The 2012 Charles Town Classic is tentatively scheduled for April 14.

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