Daily Staff Report
CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- After missing his historic win in March's Santa Anita Handicap due to a prior commitment to manage Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, former New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers manager and co-owner of Charles Town Classic favorite Game On Dude, Joe Torre will be in attendance at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races on tonight as the six-year-old gelding attempts to add the $1 million first prize to his already gaudy record.
Torre owns Game On Dude in partnership with Ernest Moody's Mercedes Stable, the Lanni Family Trust and Bernie Schiappa - who had the pleasure of calling the '71 National League MVP and informing him of their 'Big Cap win - and has had an ownership interest in several other horses of note, including 2005 Kentucky Oaks favorite Sis City and Queen's Plate winner Wild Desert.
The 72-year-old Brooklyn native currently serves as Major League Baseball's Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations.
AND THEN THERE WERE TWO?:Trainer Todd Pletcher has three horses signed on for the Classic, but the potential scratch of Mordi's Miracle could leave just two in defending champion Caixa Eletronica and Percussion.
Pletcher's assistant, Michael McCarthy, said a defection by Mordi's Miracle could "make Game On Dude the lone speed" in the Classic.
Yet, the team is still confident Caixa Eletronica will be imposing in the big race. The 8-year-old Arromanches colt, owned by Mike Repole, stalked within two lengths of the pace in fourth and fifth last year before pouncing and winning.
"You don't want to let [Game On Dude] get away," McCarthy said. "I don't know who would going to go get him, but we're able to close into fast fractions."
"I don't think it takes a normal mile-and-an-eighth horse to win this," he said. "This is not a typical mile-and-an-eighth race. It's three turns. It takes a horse that is very versatile to win this race. Whether it's mud, a dry track, the inner track at Aqueduct or the 1 ½-mile track at Belmont, [Caixa Eletronica] can win on any surface. At Charles Town, let's add the mile and an eighth at three turns, plus it's at night and many horses are not used to racing at night. This horse - I don't know what he loves last year - three turns, night racing, but he loved the track and was on his toes. I didn't think there was any doubt in my mind going around that second turn last year. Once Javier [Castellano] said 'Go,' he won by 3 ½. If they went around another time, he might have won by 20."
Percussion enters the Classic for Pletcher off back-to-back scores at Aqueduct, with a win on the inner track and then a gritty mile score, in which he just got up to win by a nose in a $75,000 allowance.
"He's a horse that seems to be steadily improving," McCarthy said. "He hasn't done anything wrong since he came into our barn. It's an attractive purse, so why not take a swing with him?"
PERFECTLY CONFIDENT: Edward Lotruglio has been around the racetrack for a long time, and though he may not be Bob Baffert, Bill Mott or Todd Pletcher, the New York-based trainer is ready with his 5-year-old horse Isn't He Perfect for the Grade 2, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic tonight at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
Made 20-1 on the morning line in the field of seven, Lotruglio warms up quickly to questions about how his hard-knocking New York stakes-placed runner matches up against the likes of Game On Dude and Ron the Greek.
"I've been training horses since 1970," said the Belmont-based Lotruglio. "Up in Philadelphia, Maryland. I was helping Bobby Frankel out at Bowie. I'm used to long shots. Belmont. Aqueduct. [Hall of Fame jockey Angel] Cordero used to call me a long-shot trainer."
Isn't He Perfect heads into the Classic off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Excelsior at 16-1 last month on the inner track at Aqueduct. He was bumped by another horse at the break and caught four wide, but still came running hard down the lane under Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux, who keeps the mount for tonight's race.
Isn't He Perfect has won five of 35 lifetime starts and earned $422,822. Since the start of 2012, he has run in 12 stakes races and hit the board in 10 of them without winning.
Yet the horse is versatile - critical on a tight-turns track like Charles Town. He has raced effectively from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, and his two allowance victories last year came at seven furlongs on the turf and dirt.
Lotruglio, who has yet to win a race from 24 starters this year, is unafraid to step up in class. Last summer, he ran Isn't He Perfect in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga, and the horse finished 7 ½ lengths behind winner Emcee.
"One thing about them: They've all got four legs," Lotruglio said. "Anything can happen. I was hoping to get third in the race, but I might get second and, by a miracle, I can win it. The odds maker makes him [20-1], but I've had long shots win, too. I had a horse pay $95. What's that mean? I'm not a rookie."
HONORING A LEGEND: In addition to manning the microphone for races 6-12 on tonight's Charles Town Classic card, announcer Larry Collmus will be putting his own special twist on Race 13 -- an impression of former Charles Town race caller Costy Caras.
Caras, a member of the Charles Town Racing Hall of Fame was known for his distinctive style that served him well in his three decade stint as the track's announcer. Collmus, who first tried the impression in the final race on last year's Charles Town Classic card formed more than just a casual listener's connection with Caras over the years.
"I grew up coming to Charles Town as a kid and listening to Costy Caras," said the Ellicott City native and current voice of the Triple Crown for NBC. "I was fortunate enough to become friends with him over the years and I thought doing an impression of him in the last race was a great way to pay tribute to him."
Race 13 - the final race on Charles Town's Saturday evening program - is scheduled to go off at 11 p.m.