The Grade 2 Charles Town Classic drew a field of eight on Wednesday, topped by Stanford, who will be seeking a repeat victory in the three-turn, 1 1/8-mile race for older horses.
Stanford, trained by Todd Pletcher, led throughout last year's $1.25 million Classic to win by two lengths. He enters Saturday's renewal off a 3 1/4-length score in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Pletcher equipped Stanford with blinkers for the Challenger after a nose defeat following a dogged stretch battle with Imperative in the $400,000 Poseidon Stakes on the undercard of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in late January.
Stanford is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the Classic and will be ridden by John Velazquez from post 1.
Imperative will be running in his fourth consecutive Charles Town Classic and is one of three contenders owned by the Loooch Racing Stables of Ron Paolucci.
Imperative won the Charles Town Classic in 2014 over Game On Dude and Moreno, was second to Moreno in 2015, and then last year finished fourth. Javier Castellano, who won the Classic on Stanford, has the mount this time around on Imperative, who will break from post 5.
Imperative will be joined in the starting gate by the Loooch-owned War Story and Cautious Giant.
War Story, who finished fifth in the Pegasus World Cup to Arrogate, will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione. Cautious Giant, who was claimed for $62,500 in early March, is primarily a sprinter and should help ensure a solid pace in the Classic. Jacob Radosevich will be in from Ohio to guide Cautious Giant.
War Story has post 6, and Cautious Giant will start from the outside gate.
Sunny Ridge and Matt King Coal are also contenders.
Sunny Ridge, trained by Charles Town, W.Va., native Jason Servis, has won the Jazil and Stymie stakes in his last two starts. Manny Franco will be aboard from post 2.
Matt King Coal has won his last two starts at Laurel Park, including the Harrison Johnson Memorial. Trained by Linda Rice, Matt King Coal is quick and should be forwardly placed throughout. Maryland rider Horacio Karamanos keeps the mount and will begin from post 4.
The field also includes Gangster, who is trained by Doug O'Neill and will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez from post 3, and Laurel-based Bodhisattva, trained by Jose Corrales, who has given the ride to Xavier Perez. Bodhisattva drew post 7.
* Bob Baffert had considered sending a runner to the Classic but ultimately decided to pass the race.
* The 13-race card will begin at 12:45 p.m. Eastern. The Classic is scheduled for 5:35 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports 2. The card includes seven other stakes and two overnight handicaps.