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Thursday, August 1, 2013
Handicapping the West Virginia Derby

By Terry Turrell
Special to ESPN.com

Mountaineer Park 1 1/8 Miles
44th Running of the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby
For Three-Year-Olds
August 3, 2013
Post Time: 5:45 PM ET
Purse: $750,000

The 44th Running of The West Virginia Derby will be contested by a field of nine three-year olds. Trainer Steve Asmussen has won four of the last eight races and was the conditioner of last year's winner Macho Macho, ridden by jockey Corey Nakatani, and owned by Jerry Durant. The lightly raced and improving colt Betweenhereandcool, owned by Jerry Durant and trained by Steven Asmussen, will seek to repeat the success of last year's winner Macho Macho. Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle the heavy public choice in Overanalyze who has been installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite. This will be Pletcher's eighth attempt to win The West Virginia Derby. He has been second three times; Exhi in 2010, Magna Graduate in 2005 and Pollard's Vision in 2004.

The stakes and track record for The West Virginia Derby is1:46.29, established in 2003 by Soto, and the winning connections; trainer Michael Dickinson, jockey Ramon Dominguez and owner Baron George Von Ullman. The Mountaineer Park Track is a one mile oval with a seven furlong Turf Course. The stretch run is one of the shortest, with the distance from the last turn to the finish line 905.31 feet, while in comparison the distance at Churchill Downs is 1,234.5 feet. With a chance of showers and thunderstorms for this Saturday the track condition will be a dominant factor. The long shot Ruler of Love will be reunited with winning rider Calvin 'Borail' Borel and we all know how Borel excels when it rains.

Let's take a closer look by post position.

1. SHALER

Trainer: Louis V Ruberto Jr.
Rider: D L Parker
Owner: Chestnut Ridge Thoroughbreds and Beechwood Racing Stable, LLC.

Grey by Mineshaft broke his maiden first asking back in December 2012 and has yet to beat winners. He has a low-profile trainer clicking at thirty-seven percent win clip this year from thirty-five starters. Jockey Deshawn Parker has the most Mountaineer wins of any jockey in history, and rode Bourbon Courage last year to a second-place finish in The West Virginia Derby. Shaler working at Presque Isle Downs will be one of the longer prices on the board.

2. RULER OF LOVE

Trainer: Joan Scott
Rider: Calvin Borel
Owner: Rebro Jr Matthew N Coniglio Frank Rit

Ruler of Love has been facing softer company and will be testing the mile and one-eighth distance for the first time. His rider Calvin Borel excels over muddy tracks and speed has been holding well over the Mountaineer surface this meet. Calvin Borel will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on August 9.

3. SAY OW

Trainer: Charles H Kieser
Rider: Saul Arias
Owner: The Premae Company LLC

He was trained in California by Julio Canani and has improved rapidly for the crafty conditioner winning his last two starts over the Betfair Hollywood Park surface. This is a big opportunity for his rider Saul Arias, who has been riding the California circuit of late. Say Owtook to the local surface with a bullet :59.2 work July 29. Say Ow has tactical speed and is bred to handle any track condition. I expect value and will not ignore Say Ow when I structure my exotic wagers.

4. BETWEENHEREFANDCOOL

Trainer: Steven Asmussen
Rider: Ricardo Santana, Jr.
Owner: Jerry Durant

The winning connections of last year's West Virginia Derby, Macho Macho. The only change is last year the winning rider was Corey Nakatani, this year the rider is the young and talented Ricardo Santana. He has been at the rider for the last four starts, and has compiled a record of two wins and two seconds. By Unbridled's Song he is lightly raced and has prepped with Asmussen's large contingent stabled at Saratoga. Likely to be ignored over Asmussen's other entry, Departing, with speed and endurance in his pedigree, I look for him to be a factor early, racing on or near the pace throughout.

5. DEPARTING

Trainer: Albert Stall
Rider: Robby Albarado
Owner: Claiborne Farm and Dilschneider, Adele B.

He has three wins from five starts this year, was the winner of the Illinois Derby - G3, has been freshened, by design, since his dull effort in The Preakness, when finishing sixth of nine. Trainer Albert Stall said, "because he is a gelding the connections hope to race for several years." This will be the first time veteran rider Robby Albarado will be at the controls and he is a good fit on this stretch running son of War Front. Battle tested facing Graded, Departing has the class to merit consideration.

6. MI STO DIVERTENDO

Trainer: Jose L. Lopez
Rider: Marco Ccamaque
Owner: Jose L. Lopez

Owned and trained by Jose L. Lopez this gelding is taking a huge leap-in-faith. Four starts ago he was in a Optional $50,000 claimer. His only win is over at the Mountaineer oval and his last two starts have been locally over a Good track.

7. LEDOKOL

Trainer: Gennadi Dorochenko
Rider: Unknown
Owner: Raut LLC (Gennadi Dorochenko)

Trainer Gennadi Dorochenko will leave you scratching your head at times. Dorochenko's Hero Of Order blew up the tote board at 109-1 odds to win the Louisiana Derby this year. It was the biggest upset in the 40-year history of the Louisiana Derby. So, why be surprised to see him enter this maiden colt and take a shot at the moon … worked before!

8. STRATOCRUISER

Trainer: Kenny P. Smith
Rider: Alex Cintron
Owner: Dream Walkin Farms, Inc.

Late running colt appears to be improving and rider Alex Cintron has been at the controls four of his last six starts. He has a good late kick and is the type of runner that flops in and makes for profitable exotics.

9. OVERANALYZE

Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Rider: Rosie Napravnik
Owner: Repole Stable

The class of the field with four wins from nine lifetime starts and career earnings of $956,381.00 is the 7-5 morning line choice. He broke his maiden at Saratoga in his racing debut, August 2012, and jumped right to Graded foe in his next eight starts. His last three starts have been The Arkansas Derby - G1, winning by four plus lengths, The Kentucky Derby - G1, finishing eleventh of nineteen, and The Belmont - G1, finishing seventh of fourteen. He will be adding blinkers for the first time and ship down from Saratoga with Rosie Napravnik named to ride Overanalyze for the first time and carry top weight of 124 pounds.

Our Eyes

With the added blinkers I look for Overanalyze to show more speed and rider Rosie Napravnik to put him into the race early. The trend to date for Mountaineer, with the short stretch run, is to be in contention on the far turn and primed for the final furlong run to the wire. Late runners have been at a disadvantage. Say Ow and Betweenhereandcool along with Ruler of Love will contest for position into the club house turn and down the back stretch. Lone speed left alone to settle and relax is the danger. With Calvin, Robby, Ricardo and Rosie all with experience in Graded races I do not believe this will be the case. My choice is for a mild surprise. Betweenhereandcool edging out Overanalyze with Ruler of Love, Say Ow, Departing and Stratocruiser factors when structuring my exotics.