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CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Talented but lightly raced 3-year-olds Free World and Ronson will attempt to improve on their promise Saturday night in the $85,000 Robert Hilton Memorial presented by Budweiser at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
The two, however, will have to go through Honour the Vow, a Penn National-based gelding who has been dominated his competition at Charles Town.
The Hilton, a seven-furlong race, is one of five stakes races on the undercard of the Grade 2, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic, one of the richest horse races in the country.
Trained by Flint Stites for owner-breeders Steve and Debbie Jackson, Honour the Vow has won two straight races at Charles Town in commanding fashion, by a combined eight lengths. With three wins in four starts at the track, he steps into stakes company for the first time.
"He loves it down there," Stites said of Charles Town. "He's probably bred for the turf; his mother was a fairly decent turf horse. But he likes it down there on that dirt. Maybe it's the tighter turns."
Honour the Vow lost his debut last November at Penn National and then was crushed by more than 26 lengths in his second start at odds of 103-1. Clearly, however, bettors knew the horse had some quality because in his next start - his first at Charles Town - he was bet down to 2-1 and scored by four lengths.
"He figured it out that day," Stites said, laughing. "The light went on. He's a good-feeling thing. He loves to train; he loves to play. His last race was a pretty good race, and there were a couple of stakes horses in there, and he ran right around them. He almost ran over them."
Free World, trained by Thomas Amoss, sports two wins and a second in his three starts this year. That defeat, two races back came in a race against Ground Transport, who subsequently ran a strong fifth in the Louisiana Derby.
In his most recent start, Free World sauntered around the track at Delta Downs and demolished a field of eight others by eight lengths without ever being asked to run.
Ronson, a Southern Image gelding trained by Michael Stidham, has won two of three starts, with both victories coming by six lengths each in sprints at Turfway Park.
Completing the field are Charles Town-based My Jordan, Indefinable Humor, Volastic, and Yougotthatgoinforu.