The Bob Baffert-trained Prayer for Relief was pegged as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby, which highlights Mountaineer’s all-stakes nine-race program Aug. 6. Dreamy Kid, shipping in for Neil Drysdale, was installed as the 7-2 second choice.
Post time for the West Virginia Derby is slated for 5:35 p.m. EDT. The top supporting stakes is the $125,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes, which also drew a field of 10.
Zayat Stables' Prayer for Relief has won both starts this year and three of his last four overall. The son of Jump Start began his season with a narrow first-level allowance win May 29 at Hollywood Park, and then shipped to Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino to rally for a decisive two-length victory in the June 25 Iowa Derby (gr. III) in his first start on dirt.
Prayer for Relief, who will be ridden once again by Rafael Bejarano, drew post 1 just as he did in the Iowa Derby. He has worked five times since that race, including a bullet five furlongs in :58 2/5 Aug. 1 at Del Mar.
Baffert won the West Virginia Derby a year ago with Concord Point.
Robert Evans’ homebred Dreamy Kid took four tries to break his maiden but has won two of three since that time. The Lemon Drop Kid colt prevailed by a nose in a $50,000 maiden race May 26 at Hollywood Park, and after running fourth in an optional claimer one month later he pulled a 19-1 shocker in the July 9 Swaps (gr. II).
In that 1 1/8-mile race he ran down Coil late to get up by a head, a win that looks even better now after Coil rallied to take the $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park July 31.
Dreamy Kid has worked three times since the Swaps, including a five-furlong move in 1:00 1/5 July 30. Dreamy Kid will break from post 5 under Joe Talamo.
Also returning from the Iowa Derby is Dream Walkin Farms’ Sherriff Cogburn, the 5-1 third choice on the morning line. Sherriff Cogburn rallied nicely along the rail in the Iowa Derby in his graded stakes debut, his third time hitting the board in as many starts this year. The Don Von Hemel trainee will ship in from Prairie Meadows, where he has worked three times since his last start.
Entering off a stakes victory is Mike McCarty’s Awesome Bet, who came from well off the pace to get up by a neck in the July 9 Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park. The Awesome Again colt has already raced seven times in 2011, winning three of them. He is trained by Steve Asmussen, a winner of three of the last six West Virginia Derbys.
Also coming out of the Barbaro is Rush Now, who finished fourth, beaten three lengths. The Tony Dutrow trainee won the Spend a Buck Stakes at Monmouth in his previous start.
Other contenders include Matt Winn Stakes (gr. III) runner-up Infrattini, Long Branch Stakes third-place finisher Little Drama, and Red Legend Stakes runner-up Loranger Native. Longshot Fred High, a West Virginia-bred, will be ridden by Mountaineer’s leading jockey, DeShawn Parker.
$750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II, Race 8, 5:35 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Prayer for Relief (KY), R Bejarano,118, B Baffert
2. Infrattini (KY), C H Borel, 112, P J McGee
3. Little Drama (FL), K Carmouche, 114, D Fawkes
4. Awesome Bet (KY), A Garcia, 114, S M Asmussen
5. Rush Now (KY), C H Velasquez, 114, A W Dutrow
6. Sherriff Cogburn (KY), P Compton 114 D Von Hemel
7. Skipping the Score (KY), V Lebron, 112, T Rankin
8. Dreamy Kid (KY), J Talamo, 120, N D Drysdale
9. Loranger Native (LA), J Graham, 112, M Stidham
10. Fred High (WV), D L Parker, 112, T J Tullock Jr.