12 August 2006

What a day!

It's been a week, but I still feel caught up in the festive air of Derby Day, West Virginia-style. Last Sunday, Mountaineer Race Track was festooned with pink petunias spilling out of planters and crisp red-white-and-blue bunting adorning the decks. Combined with the clear aquamarine of the Blue Derby (official drink of the WV Derby), it all added up to a colorful and spirited day at the races.

More than 13,000 folks were on hand to witness the day of stakes racing. Favorite Change Up won the Juvenile Fillies, and Outcashem made it 7 in a row with a win in the Chairman's Cup. Sadly, She's that Cat's streak ended at five; she never fired, and Hot Storm ran away with the Secretary of State Stakes. Speedway, as someone pretty smart expected, took the Juvenile Stakes.

Six horses scratched in the Senate President's Cup, including Lady Grace. According to Mark Patterson, Asst. Racing Secretary, the trainer Loren Cox was worried about the condition of the turf. That left the door open for Island Escape to edge past post-time favorite Stella Blue for the win. Gaff just didn't seem to fire in the Harvey Arneault Memorial Handicap; Yucatan surged past favorite P.Kerney in the stretch for the win. It looked like Cherokee's Boy was going to fade in the stretch, but he seemed to get a second wind and won the Governor's Stakes by a length. The Da Hoss stakes at Colonial must be some race; its second & third place finishers combined for the biggest perfecta of the day, with Legal Control coming out on top by a nose over Touched By Madness in the Speaker's Cup.

The Derby itself has been covered by Daily Racing Form and Blood-Horse. And Thoroughbred Times noted that winner Bright One "was no secret to the fans, who made him the even-money favorite, not only because of his impressive early success but also because of public comments by Romans, who has made no secret of his admiration for the colt."

To that I might add that Bright One simply looked the best in the paddock. In fact, the colts who looked sharpest in the paddock were: Bright One, Cielo Gold, More than Regal, and Ah Day. In other words, the superfecta. (Sadly, Mountaineer didn't offer a superfecta on this race, thus allowing me to play a trifecta that included 1,3,4. Sigh.)

Wanna Runner (7) and Bright One (2) before the WV Derby Wanna Runner came to the paddock long after the other entries, wearing a blanket, which struck many of the fans as rather odd, since it was an unbelievably hot day. To my untrained (and myopic) eye, he didn't look like he wanted to run at all.

I'm not sure who ESPN brought in to call the race, but I was unimpressed. (You can visit NTRA to hear it for yourself.) Maybe some year they'll let Mountaineer's excellent Peter Berry make the call.

We brought home some serious sunburn, some not so serious cash -- and four commemorative glasses. What can I say? The Blue Derby, essentially a blue margarita, is a refreshing drink, and Mountaineer sells them for $4, glass included. (Take that, $10 Belmont Breeze!)