Bob Baffert shipped one of his California 3-year-olds in for the second straight year and walked away a winner in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO), this time with Zayat Stables’ Prayer for Relief, who ran down front-running Rush Now by a half-length Aug. 6 at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort.
Sent off as the 13-10 favorite in a field of nine, Prayer for Relief covered 1 1/8 miles on fast dirt in 1:50.68 under jockey Rafael Bejarano, who also flew in from California and won four races on the card. Baffert won the 2010 West Virginia Derby with Concord Point.
Prayer for Relief is by Jump Start, out of the Mr. Sparkles mare Sparkin Lil. Bred in Kentucky by G. R. Aschinger, he was an $80,000 Keeneland September 2009 yearling buy. Legacy Bloodstock, agent, consigned the colt.
The dark bay/brown colt is undefeated in three starts this season.
Rush Now, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, settled for second after setting the pace through splits of :24.18, :48.13, 1:12.45, 1:37.73, and taking a 1 1/2-length lead into the stretch. Prayer for Relief, who broke from the inside post and sat a comfortable third the whole way in back of Sherriff Cogburn, circled toward the outside entering the stretch and made his run at the leader. He finally caught him in the final strides to establish himself as one of the top 3-year-olds in the country.
Sherriff Cogburn finished another 2 1/2 lengths behind Rush Now in third. He was a head better than Infrattini.
"The horse likes me," Bejarano said. "I worked him the last few times, and last time he worked in :58 2/5 at Del Mar. I figured I could let somebody go and he'd show his big kick like he did in the work. The pace was slow early and he was a little rank, but he still showed good kick in the stretch. I had a little left. He showed he's going to improve even more."
Prayer for Relief took three tries to break his maiden as a juvenile, doing so in October at Hollywood Park for a $50,000 tag. He was second in the Real Quiet Stakes to end his season and then opened up his sophomore campaign with a narrow allowance win, also at Hollywood.
The colt seemed to improve in his first start on dirt, as he defeated Sherriff Cogburn by two lengths in the June 25 Iowa Derby (gr. III) at Prairie Meadows. Baffert worked him at Del Mar three times before shipping him to Mountaineer.
Prayer for Relief improved to 4-1-0 from seven starts and has now earned $665,500.
The winner paid $4.60, $3, and $2.60. Rush Now returned $5.60 and $3.80 while filling out a $27.40 exacta (1-5). The trifecta (1-5-6) was worth $227.20.