Charles Town's stakes heat up in July

June 29, 2003

The impressive 2003 stakes schedule at Charles Town Races & Slots is highlighted by two events in July.

  • The Charles Town Dash, an invitational to be held Friday evening, is a 4 1/2-furlong sprint and will carry a $100,000 purse.

  • The annual Owners Day will be on July 20, with four $40,000-stakes races and a purse structure of close to $250,000 on the 10-race program.

"No disrespect to the first three years (of the Charles Town Dash), but this is the finest field of sprinters ever assembled for this race," Charles Town racing secretary Jimmy Hammond said. "We have some speed burners coming, they can flat out fly. They are on high octane."

The impressive list is headed by defending champion Sheryar Special.

Although entries won't be drawn until this Tuesday, Hammond believes competitors will likely include Boston Brat, Baby Shark, Mighty Beau, Sea of Green, Aaron's Favorite and Mike and Leo for the richest 4 1/2-furlong race in the U.S.


"I'd say the above group is pretty definite, I'll be adding a few others in the days ahead," Hammond said. "They all have incredible speed. You look at the form and they go 21, 44. They can't all go to the front in here, though. It should be interesting."

Sheryar Special is, indeed, special.

Over the years, the 5-year-old New Jersey-bred has faced some impressive stakes and allowance competition and usually picks up a paycheck for Philadedlphia Park-based trainer John McCaslin.

Sheyard Special has 15 career starts and the lightly raced thoroughbred shows seven wins and two place finishes with earnings of $288,958.

For the invitational, Hammond weighted the horses. He assigned top weights of 125 to Native Heir and Pioneer Boy. Crossing Point, Boston Brat and Sheryar Special were next in line with respective weights of 124, 123 and 121.

Post time for the July 4 holiday card will be 7:15 p.m.

Big day for owners

Dick Watson, president of the Charles Town Division/Horsemen's Benevolent ancd Protective Association, looks forward to Owners Day.

"Including the four stakes races, we'll give away about a quarter-of-a-million dollars that day," Watson said. "We continue to increase in the number of owners and trainers. I'd say we have 3,000 owners and 600 trainers here now. And we have a good many owner-trainer combinations."

For the day, Watson said the stakes races will carry a preference for most starts at Charles Town in the last five starts. The criteria for non-stakes races will be most starts at Charles Town.

Watson said the nominations for the stakes races will close on July 6.

The list includes:

  • The $40,000 Almost Heaven Stakes for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds-and-upwards at 4 1/2 furlongs.

  • The $40,000 Opequon Stakes for 3-year-olds-and-upwards at 4 1/2 furlongs.

  • The $40,000 West Virginia Oaks for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds-and-upwards at 7 furlongs.

  • The $40,000 Jefferson County Stakes for 3-year-olds-and-upwards at 7 furlongs.

Handicappers' challenge

Fans may now register for the 2003 Claiming Crown Handicapping Contest at

The contest, keyed to the July 19 Claiming Crown Day card at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., challenges handicappers to pick one horse in each of the 11 live races run that day.

The four entrants with the highest total pari-mutual return - based on a mythical $2 win-and-place wager on each horse selected - will receive berths in the $212,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship at Bally's Las Vegas.

The Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, now in its fifth year, is scheduled for Jan. 23-24, 2004 and awards a grand prize of $100,000 to the winner.

From jumps to flats

Barclay Tagg, trainer of Funny Cide, this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide, has joined a surprisingly long list of horsemen who have come over from the steeplechase ranks to make big news training "flat" runners.

A licensed jockey from 1964-73, Tagg won a total of 37 steeplechase races while in the saddle and several more on the flat at steeplechase meets. To put things in perspective, only 36 jockeys have ever won 100 or more steeplechase races.

Tagg won his first jump race in 1966 aboard Kings Cruise at Deep Run in Virginia. He has won steeplechase races at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga.

Tagg had his best year in 1969, when he placed fourth in the overall steeplechase standings with 13 wins from 113 rides. Tagg rode primarily for Jonathan Sheppard that year.

Other former jump jockeys who went on to successful training careers include: Leo O'Brien, Jimmy Murphy, Tom Skiffington and Scotty Schulhofer.

Others who were less successful in the steeplechase saddle, but went on to training success include Billy Turner, trainer of 1977 Triple Crown Champion Seattle Slew, Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens and Pat Byrne.

Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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