With two days before entries are drawn, a field of 10-12 seemed possible for Sunday's $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. III), one of nine stakes on an all-stakes program at Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort that will rank as the richest day of racing in the history of the state.
The Derby, at 1 1/8 miles, is the centerpiece of a special program with first post time of 2 p.m. EDT. The guaranteed purse is up from $600,000 last year.
The field is limited to 12 starters, with first preference to the highest grade or group winners, and second preference to horses with the highest earnings. As of Aug. 9, three of the 13 colts and geldings being considered for the Derby were on the fence, Mountaineer officials said.
The leading earner in the prospective field is Ablo, winner of the July 17 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie. Owned by Michael Canino, William Werner, and trainer Roger Attfield, Ontario-bred Ablo (by Lite The Fuse) has been pointed for the West Virginia Derby off his Prince of Wales victory at 1 3/16 miles, a sixteenth of a mile longer than the Derby.
Also expected for the Derby are Southern Africa, winner of the Walmac Lone Star Derby (gr. III) at Lone Star Park and the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino; Shamoan, winner of the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino; Dover Dere, second in two grade II stakes in California; grade III-placed Real Dandy; Anthony J., third in last year's $1-million Boyd Gaming Delta Jackpot Stakes; Bernie Blue, winner of three sprint stakes this year, including one at Mountaineer; grade II-placed Golden Man; Devilment, winner of the Round Table Stakes at Arlington Park; and stakes-placed Smokescreen.
Grade II-placed Magna Graduate, grade I-placed Diamond Isle, and listed stakes winner Letterman's Humor were question marks as of Aug. 9, officials said.
There are three $125,000-guaranteed stakes on the Aug. 14 program--the West Virginia Governor's Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles, the Harvey Arneault Breeders' Cup Memorial for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs, and the West Virginia Senate President's Breeders' Cup for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, at one mile on the turf.
The five other stakes, each at $85,000 guaranteed, are the West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker's Cup for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the turf; the West Virginia Legislature Chairman's Cup for 3-year-olds and up at 4 1/2 furlongs; the West Virginia Secretary of State for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, at six furlongs; the Mountaineer Juvenile for 2-year-olds at six furlongs; and the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs. The 2-year-old stakes will be raced for the first time.
Purses for the nine stakes total $1,550,000, a West Virginia record.