CHESTER, WEST VIRGINIA - Fifty-seven horses have been nominated for this year's 42nd running of the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby. The 1 1/8-mile event for three-year-olds will anchor a nine-race card comprised entirely of stakes on Saturday afternoon, August 6, at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.
"The West Virginia Derby is our signature event, and the West Virginia Derby card constitutes our signature day of racing," said Joe Narcavish, Mountaineer's racing secretary, "Our guaranteed purse distribution for the day will be $1.47 million. That's a lot of money for any track, anywhere, in North America."
Last year's West Virginia Derby featured a front-running score by Concord Point, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and ridden by Martin Garcia. Baffert plans to enter Prayer for Relief, a two-length winner of the Grade 3 Iowa Derby on June 25, in this year's West Virginia Derby.
Concord Point was an Iowa Derby winner as well, which means Baffert is engaging a very similar plan to the one he had last year. Prayer for Relief is scheduled to arrive at Mountaineer this coming Monday. The colt, owned by Ahmed Zayat, has a career record that includes six starts, three wins, one second-place finish and purse earnings of $214,000.
West Virginia Derby OTB betting at Mountaineer Race Track at Off Track Betting online race book
Little Drama, bred and owned by Harold L. Queen and trained by David Fawkes, is also considered a likely West Virginia Derby starter. Little Drama twice finished third in Grade 2 events at Gulfstream Park this year, and won the Philmont Stakes at Parx Racing (formerly known as Philadelphia Park) in late April.
A gelding, Little Drama is a homebred half-brother to the 2010 North American sprint champion, Big Drama. In 2009, Big Drama went postward in the West Virginia Derby and blazed to a ten-length lead through the opening half-mile, before losing by a neck to Soul Warrior, trained by Steve Asmussen.
Soul Warrior's triumph (in which he also defeated that year's Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird) was the third for Asmussen in the West Virginia Derby - he also won with Real Dandy in 2005 and with Zanjero in 2007.
Asmussen has nominated four horses to this year's race. The group includes Astrology, who finished third in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 21; Awesome Bet, who won the Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park on July 9; Dominus, who won the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park on July 2; and Wilburn, who was an allowance winner at Churchill Downs in mid-May.
Infrattini, who finished a fast-closing second in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill on June 18, is on the list of West Virginia Derby contenders. The same is true for Sherriff Cogburn, who was a stakes winner at Prairie Meadows at age two and finished second in this year's Iowa Derby.
Trainer Neil Drysdale has indicated that Dreamy Kid, who at odds of 19-1 won the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 9, might ship from his Southern California base to run in the West Virginia Derby. The Swaps is also run at nine furlongs, so there's no doubt that Dreamy Kid can handle the West Virginia Derby distance.
The West Virginia Derby gained graded status in 2002, and for the first time since then a filly has been nominated to the race. Santina Dond, trained by Gennadi Dorochenko, has won on both the dirt and turf ovals at Mountaineer this year.
Three times, all in the distant past, fillies have won the West Virginia Derby. Norah accomplished the feat back in 1924 at the race's original home, the Tri-State Fair Grounds track, which was nine miles east of Huntington. Etimota and Kerensa won in 1963 and 1966, respectively, when Mountaineer was known as Waterford Park.
In addition to its $750,000 purse, Mountaineer will provide a bonus of $150,000 to any Grade 1 winning horse who also wins this year's West Virginia Derby. The victors of all three Triple Crown races are among the nominees.
But Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is injured and will not race for the remainder of the year. Preakness winner Shackleford and Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice are scheduled to run in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 31.
Post time for the West Virginia Derby card will be 2 p.m. EDT. Admission and general parking are free.