Though the $750,000 Grade 3 West Virginia Derby continues to garner some attention in the mainstream racing press, there's little attention being paid to the rest of the Mountaineer's stakes-filled Saturday card. Here's a brief overview of the card, with links to free past performances, where available:
Race 1 - Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes - $85,000.
6f, dirt. 2yo. (Past performances)
After a third place finish in the G3 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs, Steve Asmussen's Crackalackin goes forth as the ML favorite. The field of 12 also includes Robbing the Bank, 2nd in the Prairie Gold Juvenile last month, Luvandgo, who earned an 81-Beyer while placing 2nd in a MSW at Churchill last out, and Preachin Man, winner of the Minstrel Stakes. At the rail will be Yonegwa with Mark Guidry in the irons; Guidry tends to do well at Mountaineer, and Yonegwa posted a bullet work at Churchill last week. With ML odds of 12-1, Yonegwa's one to consider.Race 2 - West Virginia Legislature Chairman's Cup - $85,000.
4-1/2 f, dirt.
Joe DeVivo at DRF writes that this race "might pose the day's most intriguing head-to-head showdown, between Bernie Blue, the hottest horse on the grounds, and graded stakes winner He's Got Grit." I'm inordinately fond of Bernie Blue, who won the 5-1/2f Mountain Stakes in July and the 1mile-70yd Slipton Fell Handicap in June. He's the ML favorite, he's my favorite, 'nuff said.Race 3 - West Virginia Secretary of State Stakes - $85,000.
6f, dirt. Fillies & Mares. (Past performances)
Rex "The Speed Doctor" Stokes will ride Country Diva, who's placed or better six out of her seven tries at Mountaineer. Her strongest rivals appear to be Trout River Red, Cajun Mistress, and Vote Early. I'm thinking New Year's Eve Stakes winner Excellerant, with Robbie Albarado up may have a shot, though her 1-post position might discourage those familiar with Mountaineer's periodic "dead" rail, so I'll be watching how Yonegwa does in the first race before I wager on this one.Race 4 - Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies Stakes - $85,000.
6f, dirt. 2yo fillies.
Rumor has it that the North American Graded Stakes committee may grant this race Grade III status in the near future (The Review, 8/3), as two of last year's entrants -- Appealing Zophie and Meadow Breeze -- went on to win G-1's later in the year. This year, Steve Asmussen's Elocution is the overwhelming favorite at 3-5 in the morning line, with John Servis' Ms. Officer Rocket closest in the ML at 4-1. I want to have a look at Sumwhrovrtherainbw, who may have a horrible name, but is trained by David Markgraf, who's got a 33% winning percentage with 2 year olds.Race 5 - West Virginia Senate President's Breeders' Cup Stakes - $125,000.
1 mile 70 yards, turf. Fillies & Mares. (Past performances)
Until this year, this race was run at 1 mile. Not sure why the distance was changed, but the race looks to be a grudge match between the top 3 finishers in Mountaineer's Decoration Day Handicap: Bold Passage (ML odds: 4-1), Afleet Angel (ML: 3-1), and Water Gap (ML: 5-1). Michael Matz is sending Miss Belga Bound to face the trio in her first race since an up-the-track performance in the All Along Breeders' Cup Stakes in June.Race 6 - The Harvey Arneault Memorial Breeders' Cup Stakes - $125,000.
6f, dirt. 3yo and up.
The Student (ML: 9-5) and Forest Hill (ML: 8-5) top the Morning Line, but I'm wondering about De Brandon Boy. He broke his maiden last time out -- his first race after leaving trainer Bob Baffert. His speed figures jumped 28 points, too. Hmm.Race 7 - The West Virginia Governor's Stakes - $125,000
1-1/16 miles, dirt. (Past performances)
Dale Romans brings M B Sea back to the Mountain where, in three previous attempts, he's never been out of the money. Surprisingly, the ML favorite is Mr. Pursuit at 7-5, who finished 3 lengths behind M B Sea in Mountaineer's Slipton Fell Handicap in June. At 5-1, the pace-setting Angler's Reef seems like a better bet to me.Race 8 - The West Virginia Derby (G3) - $750,000.
1-1/8 miles, dirt. (Past performances)
A winner of a G-1 hasn't run in the WV Derby since 2000 -- so a visit from Blue Grass Stakes winner Dominican seems pretty special. In addition, the field includes Bwana Bull, Delightful Kiss, Dr. Googles Boogles, Moyer's Pond, Norjac, Sam P., Slew's Tizzy, Song of Navarone, Zanjero. Both Curb My Enthusiasm and Graded Stakes offer up some handicapping suggestions for this race, as does The Handicapper's Edge.Race 9 - The West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker's Cup Stakes - $85,000.
All I can say: trained by Forego's jockey! One horse barn! Shades of improbable Walter Farley books! Go, Delightful Kiss, go!
1 mile 70 yards, turf. (Past performances)
Cherokee Prince is the 5-2 favorite for this one, and there's good reason: he's won three stakes at the Mountain since last July. (The chart for his most recent win, the Independence Day Stakes, is available on the Mountaineer website.)Frankly, it looks like a great day is in store for those who stop by Mountaineer on Saturday. Free admission, tasty Blue Derby drinks in snazzy julep glasses, tons of sun, Jerry Bailey, and two turf races! What more could you ask for?