Shared Belief, California Chrome top nominations for Charles Town Classic

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Champions Shared Belief and California Chrome as well as 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Bayern headline a list of 56 nominees for the $1,500,000 Charles Town Classic (G2) coming up on April 18 at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.

While 2014 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) winner California Chrome remains in the Middle East preparing for a run in the Dubai World Cup (G1) coming up on March 28, Shared Belief — currently the top horse in the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings as well as the unanimous top selection in the NTRA Thoroughbred poll — remains a possibility for the 1 1/8 mile Classic. After defeating California Chrome in the San Antonio (G2), the 4-year-old gelding notched an easy victory in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) in his most recent start. Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer and owned in partnership by a group that includes sports radio talk show host Jim Rome, Shared Belief boasts 10 victories in his 11 career starts and earnings of nearly $3 million.

The only time Shared Belief hasn’t crossed the wire first came in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic when the gelding finished fourth as the 2.5-to-1 favorite after a rough trip left him with little chance. The horse who did win that day — Kaleem Shah’s Bayern — on the sidelines since his victory in the Breeders’ Cup would give his trainer Bob Baffert a shot at winning his second Charles Town Classic. Baffert, himself a Hall of Famer, won the race with Game on Dude two years ago. In training at his base at Santa Anita, Bayern has posted a series of workouts in 2015 with the most recent being a five-furlong move in :59 4/5 on March 20.

Other Grade 1 winners nominated include 2014 Donn Handicap (G1) winner Lea, 2015 Whitney Handicap (G1) winner Moreno and the filly Warren’s Veneda, who recently notched a dominating 7 1/4 length score in the Santa Margarita (G1). While Lea is set to take on California Chrome in Dubai, Moreno and Warren’s Veneda remain under consideration for the Charles Town Classic. Trained by Eric Guillot, Moreno was second behind Shared Belief in this year’s Santa Anita Handicap and finished third in the 2014 Charles Town Classic. Craig Lewis, who conditions Warren’s Veneda, has his own track record in the Charles Town Classic having sent out the now retired Clubhouse Ride to a second-place finish in 2013 and fourth-place effort last year.

The trainer’s name appearing most often on the nomination list is seven-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher, who nominated seven horses to the Charles Town Classic including Race Day, the recent winner of the Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn Park, and 2014 Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up Commissioner. Pletcher won the 2012 Charles Town Classic with Caixa Eletronica.

All told, 24 of the 56 nominees have won at least one graded stakes with a total of 13 victories coming in Grade 1 events.

Nominations for a pair of undercard stakes — the $150,000 Sugar Maple presented by CANTER Mid-Atlantic for fillies and mares and the $100,000 Robert Hilton Memorial for 3-year-olds, both run at 7 furlongs — close on April 4.

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