Kaleem Shah’s Concord Point continued his rise up the 3-year-old ranks with a wire-to-wire victory in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort Aug. 7.
With regular rider Martin Garcia aboard, Concord Point, trained by Bob Baffert, had to withstand a moderate challenge from Exhi at the top of stretch. Concord Point was able to maintain his lead through the stretch run and defeated Exhi by a length.
Concord Point (a Kentucky-bred by Tapit out of the Boston Harbor mare Harve de Grace) won for the fourth time in six career starts and pushed his earnings to $669,260.
Baffert, who watched the race from California, was high on Concord Point, especially after the colt's win in the June 26 Iowa Derby (gr. III) in his first start on dirt.
“Bob said to get on the plane,” said Shah, who was on hand at Mountaineer. “I had to head out here.”
Shah, who has about 30 horses in training, most of them with Baffert and the rest with Dale Capuano, called Concord Point his best horse to date.
“This one is at the top of the list,” Shah said. “I’ve got some very nice horses with Bob. He makes it happen.”
Concord Point set fractions of :23.59 for the first quarter-mile, :47.71 for a half-mile, and 1:12.37 for six furlongs while appearing well within himself. He passed the mile marker in 1:37.89 and stopped the timer at 1:51.12 on a track that was fast but tiring.
“He’s a beautiful horse,” Garcia said after the ride. “I love riding him.”
Concord Point paid $3.60 as the favorite and topped a $21 exacta with Exhi, the 5-1 second choice. Nacho Friend, the third choice, completed a $61.20 trifecta.
Exhi, who had won his last four starts, all stakes, on synthetic surfaces, handled the dirt just fine for trainer Todd Pletcher. Jockey Robby Albarado, who won the West Virginia Senate President’s Breeders’ Cup Stakes with Kiss Mine earlier in the day, said there were no excuses for Exhi.
“I had a good ride and a good trip,” he said. “He just got outrun (by Concord Point).”
Shah said he would talk to Baffert, who will pick out the next race for Concord Point. He said the Travers Stakes (gr. I) is attractive, but it’s Baffert’s call.
Demarcation finds his spot
Amerman Racing Stables’ Demarcation, who has been knocking heads with some of the best older horses in training, found a field and pace scenario to his liking in the $125,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes, second-richest race on the card. Demarcation, trained by Paul McGee, rallied from far back under Joel Rosario to win the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:44.37.
Heavy favorite Shadowbedancing, who won the Governor’s Stakes last year and was coming off a victory in the Cornhusker Handicap (gr. II), battled for six furlongs with Z Humor before giving way on the far turn. Z Humor assumed command but couldn’t contain Cryptolight, who rallied to take the lead in the final eighth of a mile, and Demarcation, who ran by them all late.
“He’s a very versatile horse,” said McGee, who traveled from Kentucky with one horse and got the money. “Joel had me a little bit worried early on, but they collapsed on the front end. This horse ran good in the (grade I) Stephen Foster, pretty good in the (grade II) Clark, and has won two grade III stakes.”
McGee said he’s not sure where Demarcation (by Gulch) will run next. “I’ve got to find a spot for him,” he said.
A double for Casey
Owner-trainer-breeder James A. Casey had a big day, shipping in two West Virginia-bred runners to win two $85,000 open stakes early on the program.
Casey won the Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes for 2-year-olds with Mr. Proud Allen (by My Boy Adam) and the West Virginia Secretary of State Stakes for fillies and mares with Down Town Allen (by Windsor Castle). Both were ridden by Kristy Petty, who rides sparingly; this year she now has four wins, a second, and two thirds in seven starts.
Mr. Proud Allen won his career debut at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races by 9 1/4 lengths in late June before the Mountaineer Juvenile. Down Town Allen, a 3-year-old filly with a three-for-three record in 2010, has dominated state-breds at Charles Town but also took the open Lady Charles Town Stakes in June.
Total handle on the nine-race all-stakes card was $2,031,174, well off the record of more than $3 million set last year when Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner was in the race.