A full field of 12 has been entered for Saturday's 47th running of the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby. The 1 1/8-mile event at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort anchors a nine-race card comprised entirely of stakes. Post time for the first race will be 2 p.m. EDT.
Cupid, whose resume already includes a pair of Grade 2 victories – in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and the Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand Race Course – will be the likely West Virginia Derby post-time favorite.
The colt is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who won the 2010-11 editions of the West Virginia Derby with Concord Point and Prayer for Relief. Cupid will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard Prayer for Relief, and had previously booted Sir Shackleton to a West Virginia Derby score in 2005.
Mo Tom, winner of the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans in January and the $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown in June, will go to the West Virginia Derby post under jockey Joe Bravo. The colt is trained by Thomas M. Amoss, and campaigns for G M B Racing, the nom de course of Gayle Benson, who with her husband Tom owns the National Football League's New Orleans Saints.
Suddenbreakingnews, who won the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in February and finished second in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in April, will be ridden in the West Virginia Derby by the Oklahoma-based jockey Luis S. Quinonez. Suddenbreakingnews is trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, whose father, Don Von Hemel, sent out Sherriff Cogburn to a third-place finish in the West Virginia Derby in 2011.
Trainer Albert Stall, Jr., who won the 2013 edition of the West Virginia Derby with Departing, has entered Forevamo in this year's renewal. At age two, Forevamo won the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Louisiana's Delta Downs. His efforts this year include second-place finishes in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds and the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs. Florent Geroux, a native of France, will be aboard.
Economic Model, who won the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park and finished second in Belmont's Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes in his most recent efforts, will be trainer Chad C. Brown's first West Virginia Derby starter.
Horses trained by Brown, a former assistant to the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, have accumulated $9.88 million in purse earnings this year, which puts him in second position (behind only Todd A Pletcher) among North America Thoroughbred conditioners. Economic Model will be ridden by the mid-Atlantic-based Kendrick Carmouche.
No Distortion, who won the Long Branch Stakes at New Jersey's Monmouth Park in July, will run in the West Virginia Derby for trainer J. Larry Jones. The homebred colt campaigns for former Kentucky Governor Brereton C. Jones, and will be ridden by Gabriel Saez, completing an identical team that finished sixth in the 2008 West Virginia Derby with the 14-1 shot Proud Kentuckian.
The field further includes Whateverybodywants, winner of the Prairie Mile Stakes at Iowa's Prairie Meadows in June; Van Damme, who finished second in the Grade 3 Arlington Washington Futurity at Arlington Park at age two; and Adventist, who has accumulated a trio of graded stakes placings, one of which occurred in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct this past April.
Completing the group are Anaximandros, a recent allowance winner at South Florida's Gulfstream Park; Name Changer, an 11-length allowance winner at Parx Racing; and the maiden winner Pinson. There is also one “also eligible” horse, Fort Pulaski, who will go to West Virginia Derby post under local jockey Deshawn Parker if one of the entrants is a scratch.
Purses for the entirety of the West Virginia Derby card will total $1.65 million. The $200,000 West Virginia Governor's Stakes, which will be carded as the seventh race, has also lured a 12-horse field (along with one “also eligible”) that includes a trio of Grade 2 winners – Departing; S'marvelous, who was victorious in this year's New Orleans Handicap; and Mobile Bay, who accounted for the 2015 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.
The West Virginia Derby will be the eighth race on the card, with an approximate post time of 5:20 p.m. EDT. The Derby will be televised on TVG; and, along with the undercard's Governor's Stakes and Senator Robert C. Byrd Memorial Stakes, on TVG2. Admission and general parking at Mountaineer will be free.
The 2016 West Virginia Derby Field
Post Position Horse Jockey Trainer
1 Cupid Rafael Bejarano Bob Baffert
2 No Distortion Gabriel Saez J. Larry Jones
3 Mo Tom Joe Bravo Thomas M. Amoss
4 Pinson Corey J. Lanerie Michael J. Maker
5 Whateverybodywants TBA Kellyn Gorder
6 Name Changer Jevian Toledo Alan E. Goldberg
7 Van Damme T. D. Houghton Robert M. Gorham
8 Adventist Aaron T. Gryder Leah Gyarmati
9 Economic Model Kendrick Carmouche Chad C. Brown
10 Anaximandros Leonel Reyes Mikhail Yanakov
11 Forevamo Florent Geroux Albert M. Stall, Jr.
12 Suddenbreakingnews Luis S. Quinonez Donnie K. Von Hemel
AE Fort Pulaski Deshawn Parker Danny Pish
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