Wiseman's Ferry and The Judge Sez Who, the second- and third-place finishers in the grade II Ohio Derby at Thistledown in July, are among a field of nine 3-year-olds entered for the $600,000 West Virginia Derby, a grade III event to be held Aug. 10 at Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort.
The 1 1/8-mile event, centerpiece of a nine-race program that will offer almost $1.2 million in purses, lured shippers from as far away as California. The draw post-position draw for the West Virginia Derby only is scheduled for Aug. 8.
Wiseman's Ferry, owned by Morton Fink, Lee Sacks, and Swifty Farm, could be the favorite. Trainer Niall O'Callaghan said he opted for the West Virginia Derby because he believes the racing surface will suit the speedy Hennessy colt. Last year, Western Pride wired the field in the Derby in track-record time.
"We believe speed is the factor here," O'Callaghan said. "We think it's the right place to go with him given the way the racetrack plays. It will take a good one to run him down."
On July 20, Wiseman's Ferry raced on the engine in the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby and just fell a neck short of Magic Wiesner, who went on to finish second behind War Emblem in the Haskell Invitational Aug. 4 at Monmouth Park. Jockey Jorge Chavez, based at Saratoga, was named to ride Wiseman's Ferry at time of entry. The weight package of 122 pounds is the highest among the nine entrants.
The Judge Sez Who, owned by Sez Who Racing Stable and trained by Milton Wolfson, finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Wiseman's Ferry in the Ohio Derby. In his previous start, the Judge TC colt won the Migrating Moon Stakes at Calder Race Course.
Jerry Bailey, also based at Saratoga, was named to ride The Judge Sez Who. The weight is 115.
The colt with the second-highest weight assignment of 119 is Tom and Debra Shapiro's Calkins Road, who invades from Southern California for trainer John Shirreffs. Calkins Road, by Illinois Storm, finished third behind Came Home in the grade III Affirmed Handicap June 23 at Hollywood Park in his last start. Gary Birzer has the call.
The field is completed by Cappuchino, winner of multiple stakes in Northern California for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer; Captain Squire, winner of the grade II Laz Barrera Memorial at Hollywood Park in May; Derby Drive, an allowance winner at Mountaineer in May; Pass Rush, second in both the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows and the Round Table Stakes at Arlington Park; Roger E, an allowance winner at Delaware Park in July; and Runnin On Brave, a maiden that has competed at Thistledown.
Pat Day, yet another Saratoga-based rider, has the call aboard Pass Rush for trainer Pat Byrne.
Post time for the Derby program is 7 p.m. EDT. Other nationally prominent horses are scheduled to compete on the program, including Abajo in the $85,000 West Virginia Legislature Chairman's Cup at 4 1/2 furlongs, and Burning Roma in the $85,000 West Virginia Governor's Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.