CHESTER, W.Va. - Supporting stakes are important factors in fortifying the status of major racing events. The undercard competition in Saturday's Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby will be the strongest ever asssembled at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.
The entirety of the nine-race card offers purses totaling $1.65 million, and four horses who have already achieved seven-figure bankrolls are scheduled to go the post. That's a record number for Mountaineer and if either Vicar's in Trouble or Tapiture win the West Virginia Derby, another millionaire will join the club.
Dalaunay, the 9-to-5 morning line favorite in the $100,000 Senator Robert C. Byrd Memorial Stakes, has slightly over $1 million in career purse earnings. Last year, Delaunay was a four-length winner of the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes. In May of this year, the 7-year-old gelding was a 3 1/2-length winner of Churchill's Aristides Stakes.
Russell Road, 20-to-1 in the morning line for the 'Byrd Memorial, has career earnings of $1.66 million. The 8-year-old gelding is one of the most prominent West Virginia-breds in history. Russell Road is a 20-time stakes winner. Nineteen of his black-type scores have occurred at West Virginia tracks, including three at Mountaineer.
Moonshine Mullin, the 8-to-5 favorite in the line for the $200,000 West Virginia Governor's Stakes, has a bankroll totaling $1.01 million. On June 14, the six-year-old horse was a front-running, 1 3/4-length winner of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill.
The post-time odds on Moonshine Mullin in the Stephen Foster were 10-to-1. The horses he defeated that evening included Will Take Charge, who was North America's champion three-year-old in 2013; Departing, last year's West Virginia Derby winner; Golden Ticket, who dead-heated for first in the 2012 Travers Stakes at Saratoga; and the 2011 West Virginia Derby winner Prayer for Relief.
Regally Ready, the 5-to-2 second choice in the morning line for the $100,000 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker's Cup, has $1.43 million in career earnings. The (now) 7-year-old gelding won the 2011 edition of the Grade 2 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs (the most recent occasion when the Breeders' Cup was hosted by the Louisville track).
He also won four other turf sprints in 2011, a trio of which were graded, and was victorious by three-quarters of a length on June 14 this year in Churchill Opening Verse Stakes. The 'Speaker's Cup is carded at one mile and 70 yards on the turf. The Opening Verse was a 1 1/16-mile turf event. Sprinting is Regally Ready's forte, but he has proven to be capable at a middle distance.
Saturday's Mountaineer undercard will include the presence of other premium horses as well. Carve, who on June 28 won the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows, is 7-to-2 in the morning line for the Governor's Stakes; Falling Sky, winner of this year's Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes, is 5-to-1 in the Governor's line.
The idea for West Virginia Derby Day is for it to be a celebration, not only of Mountaineer's racing heritage, but of the entirety of West Virginia's racing heritage which dates back to the days when Charles Washington (the brother of President George) staged meets in the roadways leading to what eventually became Charles Town.
It's one day a year, and the biggest day for Mountaineer.
West Virginia Derby Notes: Gold Appointment has been scratched from the West Virginia Derby, leaving the field at eight horses . . . Rex A Stokes III will ride Key for Success in the Derby . . . Rosie Napravnik has been named aboard seven horses on the West Virginia Derby card six of them are trained by Steve Asmussen . . . Corey Nakatani also has seven mounts, but for seven different trainers.