The racing office at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort has announced there are 51 nominees for this year’s $ 750,000 West Virginia Derby, which will be held Aug. 5.
The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds is one of seven stakes on a nine-race program that will begin at the special first post time of 2 p.m. The Derby traditionally is the eighth race with a planned post time of 5:21 p.m.
Many of the top 3-year-olds in training are among the nominees for the Grade III stakes that will be run for the 48th time. It was revived by Mountaineer management in 1998 after a seven-year absence and has been run each year since then.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won his first West Virginia Derby in 2015 with Madefromlucky, nominated eight to the race this year including the popular Patch, who had his left eye removed because of an ailment before he began racing at age 2. The son of Union Rags, however, has since finished second in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and most recently third in the Grade I Belmont Stakes, third leg of the Triple Crown.
Pletcher has said he is considering shipping Calumet Farm’s Patch to West Virginia; he did not enter the colt in the Curlin Stakes July 28 or Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes July 29 at Saratoga Race Course.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, a winner of five editions of the West Virginia Derby, has three nominated this year including L and N Racing’s Lookin at Lee, who rallied along the rail to finish second behind Always Dreaming in the Grade I Kentucky Derby. The colt by Lookin At Lucky then competed in the other two legs of the Triple Crown with a fourth-place finish in the Grade I Preakness Stakes and a seventh in the Belmont.
Lookin At Lee’s owners said they expect he will be entered in the West Virginia Derby.
Brad Grady’s Phat Man, winner of the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park in New Jersey in his last start, seems to have to come hand for trainer Joe Sharp, who on July 25 said he plans to race the gelding at Mountaineer. Phat Man took a step up in class for the Monmouth stakes after winning a starter allowance event in New York.
Owner Ron Paolucci’s Loooch Racing Stable has five 3-year-olds nominated to the West Virginia Derby. Paolucci, who grew up in the Akron, Ohio, area, and is a strong supporter of that state’s Thoroughbred racing program, was a regular visitor to Mountaineer—then known as Waterford Park—with his father when he was a youngster.
Loooch Racing Stable started three horses in the Grade III Ohio Derby at ThistleDown Racino near Cleveland in late June. Paolucci July 25 said he expects to run Game Over, who finished fifth in the Ohio Derby after victories in the first two starts of his career at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and Churchill.
The Mineshaft colt has recently worked at Monmouth under the care of that track’s leading trainer, Jorge Navarro.
The $ 200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles attracted 46 nominees including the first two finishers in the Mountainview Stakes at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course: Lady Sheila Stable’s Matt King Cole and Adam Staple and Jalin Stable’s Page McKenney. Another nominee is W.S. Farish’s Eagle, winner of the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial at Indiana Grand Race Course in his last start in mid-July.
The other five stakes on the Aug. 5 card are each worth $ 75,000. Plans call for two West Virginia-bred allowance races to complete the lineup.
Entries for the West Virginia Derby program will be drawn July 31.
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