57 Nominated to West Virginia Derby
Photo: Coady Photography
Iowa Derby winner Prayer for Relief is among the 57 nominees for the West Virginia Derby.

Fifty-seven horses have been nominated for this year’s 42nd running of the grade II, $750,000 West Virginia Derby. The 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-olds will highlight a nine-stakes race card Aug. 6 at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.
    
"The West Virginia Derby is our signature event, and the West Virginia Derby card constitutes our signature day of racing,” said Joe Narcavish, Mountaineer’s racing secretary. “Our guaranteed purse distribution for the day will be $1.47 million. That’s a lot of money for any track, anywhere, in North America.”

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who won last year’s race with Concord Point  , plans to enter Zayat Stables’ Prayer for Relief, a two-length winner of the grade III Iowa Derby. Baffert is following the same schedule this year since Concord Point was an Iowa Derby winner as well. The colt has three wins and one second-place finish from six starts, with earnings of $214,000.
 
Little Drama, bred and owned by Harold L. Queen and trained by David Fawkes, is also considered a likely West Virginia Derby starter. Little Drama twice finished third in grade II races at Gulfstream Park this year, and won the Philmont Stakes at Parx Racing (formerly known as Philadelphia Park) in late April. The gelding is a half-brother to the 2010 sprint champion Big Drama who blazed to a 10-length lead before losing by a neck to Soul Warrior in the 2009 West Virginia Derby.

Trainer Steve Asmussen, who has won the race three times, has nominated four horses to this year’s race. The group includes Astrology  , who finished third in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course on May 21; Awesome Bet, who won the Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park on July 9; Dominus  , who won the grade II Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park on July 2; and Wilburn  , who was an allowance winner at Churchill Downs in mid-May.
    
Infrattini, who finished a fast-closing second in the grade III Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill June 18, is on the list of West Virginia Derby contenders. The same is true for Sherriff Cogburn, who was a stakes winner at Prairie Meadows at age 2 and finished second in this year’s Iowa Derby.

Trainer Neil Drysdale has indicated that Dreamy Kid, who at odds of 19-1 won the grade II Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park July 9, might ship from his Southern California base to run in the West Virginia Derby.

Santina Dond, trained by Gennadi Dorochenko, a winner on both the dirt and turf ovals at Mountaineer this year, is the first filly to be nominated to the race since it attained graded status in 2002. The West Virginia Derby has been won by three fillies--Norah accomplished the feat in 1924 at the race’s original home, the Tri-State Fair Grounds track, and Etimota and Kerensa won in 1963 and 1966, respectively, when Mountaineer was known as Waterford Park.
    
In addition to its $750,000 purse, Mountaineer will provide a bonus of $150,000 to any grade I-winning horse who also wins this year’s West Virginia Derby. The winners of all three Triple Crown races are among the nominees, but none will make the race.

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