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Barbara D. Livingston

Zanjero Early Favorite in West Virginia Derby

Zanjero was made the morning-line favorite for the Aug. 4 West Virginia Derby (gr. III).

Of the field of 10 running in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. III) Aug. 4, five have run in American Classics--none of them with any success. If one of them can break through in the 1 1/8-mile trek around Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort’s main track, it will go a long way to help separate itself in a competitive 3-year-old division that is beginning to take shape.

Despite not winning a race since November and never having won a stakes, the Steve Asmussen-trained Zanjero was named as the 3-1 morning-line favorite. The son of Cherokee Run has just two wins to his credit, but has finished in the money in eight of 10 career races. Most recently, Zanjero just missed in the June 16 Northern Dancer Breeders’ Cup (gr.III), getting nosed out by the Michael Matz-trained Chelokee.

Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, Zanjero is one of four West Virginia Derby contenders to have run in this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Jockey Shawn Bridgmohan will likely have Zanjero just off the pace, which should be set by Slew’s Tizzy (6-1) and Song of Navarone (12-1).

Slew’s Tizzy is coming off a poor effort in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), but won his previous two races--the Lone Star Derby (gr. II) and Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II). The son of Tiznow  has won three of eight races and his last five tries have been graded stakes. Jockey Robby Albarado will try to take Slew’s Tizzy right to the lead for trainer Gregory Fox.

Two other Kentucky Derby starters, Dominican and Sam P., will be looking to stamp themselves as legitimate 3-year-old contenders after a pair of third-place finishes. Domincan (4-1) is coming off a disappointing effort in a stakes at Arlington Park July 14, but has hit the board in six of nine tries. Ridden for the first time by Eddie Castro, the son of El Corredor will carry a race-high 122 pounds and may be coming from the back of the pack as they turn for home.

Like Zanjero, Sam P. has not won since last November and has only two wins in 10 races. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Cat Thief was right with Chelokee and Zanjero as they hit the backstretch in the Northern Dancer Breeders’ Cup, but failed to show a finishing kick and came in  2½ lengths behind the winner. With Rene Douglas aboard, Sam P. was given 5-1 morning-line odds.

Ohio Derby (gr. II) winner Delightful Kiss (9-2) and runner-up Moyer’s Pond (10-1) are two other contenders. Moyer’s Pond will be ridden by Mark Guidry, who was aboard the last two West Virginia Derby winners.

The track and race record of 1:46.29 was set in 2003 by Soto.

Nine stakes are on the Aug. 4 Mountaineer card, with purses totaling $1.55 million. First post is 2 p.m. EDT. The race will be televised on ESPN from 5-6 p.m.

$750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. III, Race 8, 4:43 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Sam P. (KY), 111, Rene R. Douglas
2. Dr Googles Boogles (KY), 111, (No Rider)
3. Moyer's Pond (KY), 111, Mark Guidry
4. Norjac (MD), 111, (No Rider)
5. Slew's Tizzy (KY), 119, Robby Albarado
6. Delightful Kiss (FL), 119, Jeffrey Sanchez
7. Song of Navarone (KY), 115, Fernando Jara
8. Dominican (KY), 122, Eddie Castro
9. Zanjero (KY), 111, Shaun Bridgmohan
10. Bwana Bull (KY), 117, Dana G. Whitney