The 50th edition of the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort has attracted 54 nominations including several from trainers with a history of success in the Grade III event for 3-year-olds.
The $500,000, Grade III West Virginia Derby at 1 1/8 miles is one of seven stakes planned for the Saturday, Aug. 3, program that will begin at the special post time of 2 p.m. EDT. The Derby traditionally goes off at about 5:30 p.m. as the eighth race on a nine-race card.
In all, there were 348 nominations—several horses were cross-nominated—for the seven stakes at the July 22 deadline. The program includes the $200,000 West Virginia Governor's Stakes, a Grade III event for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who has won the West Virginia Derby a record five times since 2005, has nominated two colts this year. Stud TNT's Fluminense finished a closing fourth after a poor start in the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino in his most recent outing July 5, while Alex and JoAnn Lieblong's Laughing Fox finished fifth, beaten less than four lengths, in the Grade I Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course May 18 and has been training steadily at Saratoga Race Course in New York.
Dale Romans, who bagged his second West Virginia Derby last year with eight-length winner Mr Freeze, also nominated two colts. West Point Thoroughbreds' And Seek finished fifth in the Iowa Derby in his last start, while Calumet Farm's Everfast finished fourth in the Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park July 20 and earlier was second in the Preakness Stakes.
As has been the case for years, multiple horses nominated for the West Virginia Derby are entered or nominated for a pair of 3-year-old stakes at Saratoga July 26-27. The Mountaineer racing office will have a clearer picture of the Derby after it sees which horses actually run in New York.
A couple of colts leaning toward “probable” for the Derby are Newtown Anner Stud's Chilly In Charge, trained by Miguel Vera, and the Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained Math Wizard, who has a lengthy list of owners: Saffie, John Fanelli, Collarmele Vitelli Stables, Bassett Stables, Ioannis Zoumas and Wynwood Thoroughbreds.
Chilly In Charge, based at Monmouth, was a 12-length winner of the 1 1/16-mile Crowd Pleaser Stakes for Pennsylvania-breds at Parx Racing June 22. Math Wizard, claimed for $25,000 this past winter in Florida, has proved a shrewd purchase; the colt finished third in the Grade III Indiana Derby July 13 and just missed winning the Grade III Ohio Derby June 22.
The Elkstone Group's Top Line Growth, who finished second but was placed first in the Iowa Derby after Winning Number was disqualified for interference in the stretch, also is nominated to the West Virginia Derby. Based in Maryland with trainer Kelly Rubley—she also nominated Runnymede Racing's multiple stakes winner Alwaysmining—Top Line Growth has three wins in his four starts.
Among the nominees to the West Virginia Governor's Stakes are Colonelsdarktemper, who won the West Virginia Derby in 2017 for owner A.J. Foyt Jr., and St. George Stable's Kukulkan, a Mexico-bred who finished third in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes at Indiana Grand July 13 and previously was the upset winner of a strong Churchill Downs allowance race. The Governor's Cup achieved Grade III status for the 2018 edition, which was won by Leofric.
Entries for the Derby program at Mountaineer close Monday, July 29.
The West Virginia Derby was first run in 1923 at Tri-State Park near Huntington, just east of the capital of Charleston. The race was held there in 1924 and 1926. It returned to the calendar decades later at Wheeling Downs in 1958, and was run there in 1959 and 1961.
The race moved to Waterford Park (now Mountaineer) in 1963 and was held every year through 1981. After another gap, the race returned in 1988 for three years through 1990.
After the introduction of video lottery terminal gaming in the state in the early 1990s, the Derby was brought back in 1998 and has been run each year since that time. This year's edition marks the 50th anniversary of the West Virginia Derby.
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