Donworth has ability to win Charles Town Classic

Donworth is big, strong, and has a mind of his own -- which is not all good.

He was his own worst enemy in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 12, when he wouldn't relax, clipped heels on the far turn, and weakened to finish seventh. On Saturday, players will have to decide whether to forgive his bullheadedness when he meets nine well-matched rivals in the $1.25 million Charles Town Classic.

Donworth, a 4-year-old son of Tiznow, is a mountain of a horse who with only six starts under his belt has plenty of room for improvement. The Big Cap was his second start for trainer Doug O'Neill and owner Paul Reddam, who purchased him after he made four starts last year for trainer Graham Motion.

"He's like 17 hands and between 1,200 and 1,300 pounds," O'Neill said. "He's a big boy."

Donworth was bottled up along the inside while racing behind the leaders in the Big Cap. Jockey Mario Gutierrez tried to settle him down but ended up having to take a strong hold. Leaving the backstretch, Donworth tried to move up inside the leaders but bobbled when he appeared to clip the heels of eventual winner Melatonin.

"Fortunately, he came out of that race in great shape," O'Neill said. "We learned a lot about him that day. He wants to get going and not stop. He's the type of horse that needs some free running so he can get into a rhythm."

Look for Gutierrez to get Donworth into the clear early so he will not have to rate him very much in the 1 1/8-mile Classic.

Other top contenders in the Grade 2 race are Stanford, who stretches out off two Gulfstream Park stakes tries at a one-turn mile for Todd Pletcher, and Page McKenney, who has won five of his last six starts for trainer Mary Eppler.

Pletcher nominated 14 horses to the Classic but decided to run Stanford, who he thinks will like the six-furlong layout at Charles Town.

"We feel like his tactical speed and handiness should suit the track," Pletcher said.

Imperative is 3 for 30 in his career but won this race over Game On Dude in 2014 and was second to Moreno last year.

The 13-race card includes six other stakes and begins at 12:45 p.m. Eastern, with the Classic set to go at 6:45 p.m. The program will be streamed live on DRF.com. A $100,000-guaranteed all-stakes pick four begins on race 9 and concludes with the Classic.

Key Contenders

Donworth, by Tiznow

Last 3 Beyers: 92-104-95

There is not an overabundance of speed in this field, and he could make the lead from post 4.

Page McKenney, by Eavesdropper

Last 3 Beyers: 101-97-103

His planned final prep for this race at Laurel Park was canceled due to a lack of entries, and he comes into this off a 10-week break. He won off similar layoffs twice in 2015.

He finished third in this race a year ago.

Stanford, by Malibu Moon

Last 3 Beyers: 102-97-71

He should take up a stalking position just off the pace.

Earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure last time out when beaten a head in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Javier Castellano has the mount.

Imperative, by Bernardini

Last 3 Beyers: 98-105-102

Raced wide on the far turn of the Big Cap when fourth for trainer Richard Baltas, who took over his training last summer. Two starts back, he finished strongly to lose a nose decision in the San Antonio. He defeated Donworth, who was returning from a seven-month layoff, by a half-length that day.

Mike Smith rides.

Hard Aces, by Hard Spun

Last 3 Beyers: 101-98-95

Enters off a late-running second in the Santa Anita Handicap for John Sadler.

The worry is that he could get hung wide in this three-turn race from post 10.

International Star, by Fusaichi Pegasus

Last 3 Beyers: 96-93-100

Does his best running"when there is a pretty contested pace," according to trainer Mike Maker, and he may not get that here.

Red-hot Jose Ortiz will be in from New York for the mount.

S'maverlous, by Tiz Wonderful

Last 3 Beyers: 100-92-85

Upset the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap -- and his stablemate International Star -- at 20-1 on March 26.

He is vastly improved since being claimed by Maker for $32,000 in September.