Favoritism could be up for grabs when the horses make their way onto the track Sunday for the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. III), which proved so popular this year there are four also-eligible horses listed on the overnight.
The 1 1/8-mile Derby, to be run at Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort, is limited to 12 starters based on group or graded performance and then total earnings. The horses in the body of the race are about what management expected, but it's rare for a race of this caliber to have an also-eligible list, especially given the fact two other major events for 3-year-olds were offered last weekend.
The leading money-earner in the field is Michael Canino, William Werner, and trainer Roger Attfield's Ontario-bred Ablo, who won the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie in his last start July 17. Ablo has been pointed to the West Virginia Derby and looms one of favorites when they break from the gate under Gerry Olguin, who rode the Lite The Fuse
colt last time out.
The highweight for the Derby, run under allowance conditions, is Al and Saundra Kirkwood's Southern Africa, who's trained by Mike Puhich. The Kentucky-bred colt by Cape Town
won the Walmac Lone Star Derby (gr. III) and the Borderland Derby this year. Regular rider Jon Court is named.
Among those on the also-eligible list is New Farm's Smokescreen, who actually shipped to Mountaineer earlier this week to train over the surface. Trained by Ben Perkins Jr., the Smoke Glacken
colt, who finished second behind West Virginia Derby entrant Pinpoint in the Sir Barton Stakes in May, will play the waiting game for any scratches, as will a few others.
The West Virginia Derby is the eighth race on a nine-race all-stakes program that begins at 2 p.m. EDT. Post time for the Derby, to be broadcast on ESPN, is 5:39 p.m.
Here's the field, in post-position order, with weights, jockeys, and trainers:
1 Southern Africa 117 Jon Court Mike Puhich
2 Ablo 115 Gerry Olguin Roger Attfield
3 Dover Dere 111 Pat Valenzuela Doug O'Neill
4 Bernie Blue 111 Ricardo Feliciano Miguel Feliciano
5 Golden Man 111 Chuck Lopez Richard Dutrow Jr.
6 Devilment 113 Carlos Marquez Jr. Mike Stidham
7 Real Dandy 111 Mark Guidry Steve Asmussen
8 Magna Graduate 113 Gary Stevens Todd Pletcher
9 Pinpoint 113 Larry Melancon Nick Zito
10 Shamoan 115 Jose Valdivia Jr. Eoin Harty
11 Anthony J. 111 Jose Velez Jr. Bill Perry
12 Diamond Isle 111 Edgar Prado Richard Dutrow Jr.
13 Smokescreen 111 Mike Luzzi Ben Perkins Jr.
14 Indy Storm 111 (no rider named) Nick Zito
15 It's Time To Smile 111 Scott Spieth Steve Brown
16 Apache Point 111 (no rider named) Frank Kirby
(Note: Diamond Isle and Golden Man are coupled; Indy Storm and Pinpoint are coupled.)
More than $1.5 million in purses, a one-day West Virginia record, will be offered on Derby day at Mountaineer.