Real Dandy, who has spent the better part of this year cashing checks against some of the top 3-year-olds in the country, finally broke through--in a $750,000 race--when he went from last to first to win Sunday's grade III West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort.
Owned by Bob and Cathy Zollars and trained by Steve Asmussen, Real Dandy was last up until the far turn in the 1 1/8-mile Derby. Jockey Mark Guidry, who had won the previous two races on the card from off the pace, asked the Yankee Victor
colt for run, and he circled the field to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths over Magna Graduate, who closed up the inside.
Anthony J. finished third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Magna Graduate and a half-length ahead of Shamoan. The early fractions weren't particularly fast--:23 1/5, :47, and 1:11 3/5--but five or six runners in the field bunched up and dueled early, which set the plate for the closers. The final time was 1:50 1/5 on a fast track.
The favorite at 3-1 was Devilment, who was 8-1 in the morning line. He finished ninth after contesting the early pace. Dover Dere, the second choice, also was in the early mix and faded. Southern Africa came down with a fever two days before the race and was a program scratch.
Guidry, currently riding at Arlington Park, also won the $125,000 Harvey Arneault Breeders' Cup Memorial Stakes with John Orecchio's Wild Tale, and the $125,000 West Virginia Governor's Stakes with Mike Bruder's M B Sea. Both horses rallied from far back.
"I've been fortunate to ride the right ones on certain days, and the ones I rode today sure fit this racetrack," Guidry said. "The place to be wasn't the inside. I figured if I could get my horse to relax, I'd have plenty of horse late."
Real Dandy's last win came in an entry-level allowance test at Fair Grounds in January. But he finished second in the grade III Risen Star Stakes, fourth in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) behind Afleet Alex, and third in the grade III Lone Star Derby.
"He broke through in the right race," Bob Zollars said. "But he has given us a good race every time."
Real Dandy paid $16.20 to win as the sixth choice in a contentious 11-horse field that included a two-horse entry. The $450,000 first-place check in the West Virginia Derby pushed his career bankroll to $695,375 on a record of three wins, six seconds, and two thirds in 16 starts.
Bob Zollars said he and his wife purchased the colt for $75,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale. The Zollars have eight horses in training and several babies, he said.
Total handle for the nine-race, all-stakes program at Mountaineer was $3,447,914, an all-time record and about $1 million higher than last year. The Derby was simulcast to California this year.