Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's Departing was the first horse nominated to the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II) and the first horse entered when entries were taken July 30. And he was first under the wire–by a big margin–and became a millionaire in the process (VIDEO).
Departing, a 3-year-old Kentucky homebred gelding by War Front out of the Pulpit mare Leave, rebounded from a sixth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in May to dismantle the field in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby as the 7-5 favorite under jockey Robby Albarado. Ruler of Love was second, with second choice Overanalyze third, and Betweenhereandcool fourth in the marquee event at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort.
Winner of the Illinois Derby (gr. III) in April, Departing settled in seventh early in the nine-horse field and gradually made his way to the outside down the backstretch as Ruler of Love set fractions of :23.45 for the opening quarter-mile and :47.37 for a half-mile under Calvin Borel. Overanalyze, who broke from post 9 under Rosie Napravnik, was sent early and ended up stalking the front-runner for almost one mile.
Departing made his move on the far turn to range up outside of Ruler of Love and Overanalyze after six furlongs in 1:11.72. He then disposed of those two and gradually increased his margin to win by 8 3/4 lengths in 1:51.47 on a fast track.
Ruler of Love held well for second, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Overanalyze, the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) winner. Departing paid $4.80 to win and capped a $50.60 exacta with 13-1 Ruler of Love, who finished third in the Derby Trial (gr. III) earlier this year.
The others weren't a serious factor.
"That's his race right there," winning trainer Al Stall Jr. said of Departing's West Virginia Derby effort. "It was similar to his race (in the Illinois Derby). Once he gets his legs underneath him early, he has a good, strong finish. If we could get him to level off early, he'd really run."
Stall said the Pennsylvania Derby, Indiana Derby, and Super Derby (all gr. II) are possibilities for Departing. He said the Travers Stakes (gr. I) in late August is unlikely.
"We'll probably ride it out from here," Stall said.
Seth Hancock of Claiborne agreed with the schedule and said he’s looking forward to seeing Departing develop and eventually tackle older foes.
"He's probably a little bit below the best in the country, but he's the best of the next group," Hancock said. "We’ll see where he goes from here."
Departing, who won his first three starts before finishing third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), now has five wins in seven starts. He earned $451,500 in the West Virginia Derby to take his bankroll to $1,056,100.