Mine That Bird will make his first racing appearance since the Triple Crown when he faces five other 3-year-olds in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II) Aug. 1 at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort.
Owned by Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine, Mine That Bird was made the 4-5 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile test on the dirt. The gelding has enjoyed quite a season thus far with a strong victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, a close second in the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes, and a third in the Belmont Stakes (all gr. I).
Mine That Bird’s appearance will mark the first time a Kentucky Derby winner has raced at a West Virginia track. Mike Smith, who rode him in the Preakness, has the call.
The field of six will be the smallest in the Derby since 1968, when five horses competed after two were scratched. In this decade, the smallest field was seven in 2004.
Trained by Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr., Mine That Bird (by Birdstone out of Mining My Own, by Smart Strike) has been stabled at Mountaineer since July 24, and worked well on the surface July 27. He was to gallop on the track July 29-31.
In the Preakness, Mine That Bird finished 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Big Drama , who hopes to turn the tables in the West Virginia Derby. Owned by Harold Queen and trained by David Fawkes, Big Drama (by Montbrook out of Riveting Drama, by Notebook) could have things his own way on or near the lead at Mountaineer and could prove tough in the lane. He was made the 9-5 second choice.
Big Drama in his last start easily won the two-turn, seven-furlong Red Legend Stakes at Charles Town Races & Slots from off the pace under Eibar Coa, who is named to ride in the Derby.
Domenic Triumbari’s Awesome Rhythm, and Jim and Susan Hill’s Monty's Best, ship in from Woodbine in Canada with solid form and credentials on Polytrack. Awesome Rhythm, trained by John Ross, is a three-time stakes winner—once at a 1 1/8 miles—while Monty’s Best finished second in the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) on the dirt at Churchill Downs last year as a 2-year-old.
Trainer Steve Asmussen entered two in the Derby—Zayat Stables’ Soul Warrior and Cathy and Bob Zollars and Mark Wagner’s Sunday Sunrise. Both colts have performed well on dirt; in their most recent outings Soul Warrior was second to Duke of Mischief in the Iowa Derby, while Sunday Sunrise checked in seventh in the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park.
First race post time for the all-stakes program with purses of about $1.5 million at Mountaineer is 2 p.m. EDT, with the West Virginia Derby set for about 5:45 p.m. The Derby and $125,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes will be broadcast live from 5-6 p.m. on FOX Sports Net.
Soul Warrior and Sunday Sunrise will be coupled in the wagering. Here’s the Derby field, in post-position order with jockeys and trainers:
1. Soul Warrior, Miguel Mena, Steve Asmussen
2. Mine That Bird, Mike Smith, Chip Woolley Jr.
3. Awesome Rhythm, James McAleney, John Ross
4. Sunday Sunrise, Corey Lanerie, Steve Asmussen
5. Big Drama , Eibar Coa, David Fawkes
6. Monty's Best, Eurico Rosa Da Silva, Reade Baker