How to bet the West Virginia Derby
by John Mucciolo
It’s West Virginia Derby Day at Mountaineer with seven stakes on a special afternoon card. The feature is the $500,000 West Virginia Derby (G3), with nine going postward in a competitive cast.
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#1 LIONITE (6-1) – Steve Asmussen charge comes off a nice showing when third in the Iowa Derby last time out. Bay son of Quality Road gets the rail and could be a top-three player late after registering a 101 BRIS Late Pace number most recently.
#2 DRAFT PICK (3-1) – Consistently solid West Coast import was a game second in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3) last time. Candy Ride colt has tactical speed with a turn of foot, and I think he will thrive with the added ground. Joe Talamo coming out to ride is a positive.
#3 CALORIC (50-1) – Former claimer picks an ambitious spot and can’t be endorsed. Gray was trounced two back against similar.
#4 KIND CAUSE (15-1) – Doug O’Neill shipper was no match for a few of these in California and would need a big step forward to challenge. Creative Cause gelding remains a question mark at two turns, as well.
#5 ONCE ON WHISKEY (5-2) – Bob Baffert has won this race on three occasions and will look to make it four with the morning-line choice. Bodemeister colt closed with fine energy in his route debut last time when taking the Los Alamitos Derby. Flavien Prat comes out to keep the mount on the late runner.
#6 RUGBYMAN (8-1) – Graham Motion pupil was outrun in the Dwyer (G3) last time but made an eye-catching move in the Easy Goer Stakes two prior when a neck second. Tapit colt is another who might thrive in his two-turn bow as a value consideration against these.
#7 PAMIR (30-1) – Local hopeful was a daylight winner in a lone prior run on the dirt here but will have to get a lot faster in his stakes debut. Son of Blame is hard to back in a field that has depth.
#8 MR FREEZE (9-2) – Iowa Derby second suffered his first defeat most recently but has as much room for improvement as any in the field, having run just three times. Dale Romans trainee is an obvious contender beneath Robby Albarado.
#9 HIGH NORTH (4-1) – Brad Cox trainee draws widest and comes in with a pair of stakes wins in his previous three assignments. Sophomore by Midnight Lute has improved since adding blinkers earlier this campaign and shows a bullet morning drill preparing for the Derby.
Reading the pace of this race is a tricky endeavor with many having similar running styles. Draft Pick, with a draw near the rail, could inherit the lead but I expect five or six to be within a few lengths into the first turn.
I will side with the Eurton trainee to win this. His progression has been very good this season. And I think Draft Pick wants to run at least nine furlongs.
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