Marble Cliff works on the River Downs turf course.

Marble Cliff works on the River Downs turf course.

John Englehardt

Ohio-Bred--or Not--Entered in WV Derby

Marble Cliff will try open company for the first time in the West Virginia Derby.

Foxwood Stable’s Marble Cliff, regarded as one of the best Ohio-breds in history—if in fact he is Ohio-registered—is among a dozen 3-year-olds entered in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. III) at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort Aug. 2.

Ohio State Racing Commission staff is investigating allegations there could be one or more Thoroughbreds that have raced in Ohio-bred races but weren’t foaled in Ohio. One of the horses is believed to be Marble Cliff, already a two-time Ohio-bred stakes winner in five career starts.

The Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners officially notified the racing commission about the situation at a July 17 meeting, but didn’t name names. The investigation is being kept confidential, though many Ohio owners and breeders are discussing it among themselves. There is a chance Marble Cliff was foaled in Kentucky, observers said.

OSRC executive director Sam Zonak couldn’t be immediately reached July 29 for a status report on the probe and how potential outcomes could impact the horses’ earnings. Marble Cliff thus far has only competed in Ohio-registered events, including the $100,000 Cleveland Gold Cup, in which he earned $60,000.

Marble Cliff, trained by William “Doug” Cowans, appeared to be in his own race in the June 28 Gold Cup at Thistledown. He got away eighth but at the midway point of the backstretch in the 1 1/8-mile test had pulled jockey Luis Martinez Jr. to the lead. He then opened up under no pressure to win by 13 lengths over 3-year-old filly Formal Arrangement. It was regarded by some as the most visually impressive victory in Ohio in years.

The gelding’s only loss in five starts came in the Green Carpet Stakes on the turf at River Downs. Marble Cliff was placed second from third after a disqualification.

Marble Cliff, by Jump Start out of the Strawberry Road mare Leza, was bred by G. David Shashura and Joseph Sugar. Sugar, who owns an interest in Beulah Park near Columbus, Ohio, is a principal in Foxwoods Stable.

The West Virginia Derby attracted the maximum number of entries with no also-eligible horses, which means no horse was kept from the body of the race because of earnings.

It remains to be seen what would happen if Marble Cliff’s earnings--$109,940 thus far—are ordered redistributed because of the investigation.

As for the West Virginia Derby, it also attracted Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner Recapturetheglory; Cherokee Artist, second in the Ohio Derby (gr. II); My Pal Charlie, second in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and second in the Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. III); and Proud Kentuckian, who makes his stakes debut off three straight allowance victories, two of them against older foes.

The West Virginia Derby is featured on this week's That Handicapping Show.