Handicapping the West Virginia Derby

45th Running of The West Virginia Derby
Mountaineer Park
Grade 2
Purse: $750,000
1 ⅛ Miles
For Three-Year-Olds
August 2, 2014
Post Time: 5:45 PM ET

The 45th Running of The West Virginia Derby will be contested by a field of nine three-year olds. Trainer John Sadler pointed his colt Candy Boy, the 9-5 morning line favorite, for the West Virginia Derby soon after his runner up effort to Shared Belief in the Los Alamitos Derby. Sadler said he was leaving town to avoid another showdown with Shared Belief, "I won't be running against Shared Belief anytime soon with anything," Sadler said. Trainer Steve Asmussen has won four of the last nine running's of the West Virginia Derby. This year the Asmussen barn will be represented by Tapiture, listed as the second choice at 5-2 on the morning line, owned by the Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC. Another strong contender will be the classy Vicar's in Trouble from the Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey stable and is listed at 3-1 on the morning line.

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 50% chance of scattered thunder showers forecast for this Saturday the track condition will be a dominant factor. Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's Departing was an easy 8 ¾ length winner last year in the 44th running of the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby as the 7-5 public choice.

Taking a closer look by post position with morning line odds

1. Key for Success (50-1)
Trainer: Thomas Short
Rider: R A Stokes III
Owner: Tommy Short
The three year old maiden in this field of eight is one of two runners with a start over the track. The gelding will be adding blinkers and testing the 1 ⅛ distance for the first time. He is a maiden facing a proven field of graded winners and most likely be over 100-1 at post time.

2. For Goodness Sake (6-1)
Trainer: Michael Tomlinson
Rider: BJ Hernandez Jr
Owner: V-Leaf Stales LLC
This colt has proved a nice $50,000 claim back in February of this year at Gulfstream Park. He broke his maiden by ten-plus lengths making his second start for new connections, then came back with an impressive six-plus length victory facing winners for the first time. The son of Big Brown should have little problem with this distance and figures part of the early pace, working on the hat-trick he will get his stiffest class test to date.

3. Classic Giacnroll (12-1)
Trainer: Lisa Guerro
Rider: K. Carmouche
Owner:Joseph E. Besecker and Lisa Guerrero
Useful three-year-old gelding has two wins from 10 lifetime starts, however winless in five starts this year. He seldom misses a check and arrives sharp off a pair of bullet works over the Parx race track in Philadelphia. Deserves an outside look in the exotics.

4. Vicar's in Trouble (3-1)
Trainer: Michael Maker
Rider: Alan Garcia
Owner: Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey
Toss out his Kentucky Derby effort and this colt has been a gem of consistency. He was freshened after the Derby and despite racing wide throughout was third in the Grade 3 Iowa Derby which will prove a good prep for the West Virginia Derby. The Trainer and Owner have been setting records and dominating race meets the last three years.Conditioner Mike Maker said, "I think his performance in the Iowa Derby was due more to the track than the layoff," and "I think he has more to give than we saw in Iowa." One of the three main contenders his tactical speed will provide rider Alan Garcia the opportunity to be on or near the engine throughout.

5. Tapiture (5-2)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Rider: Rosie Napravnik
Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC
Except for a troubled Kentucky Derby effort this colt has participated in five graded races in 2014 winning the Grade 3 Southwest and Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs with rider Rosie Napravnik at the controls. From the same sire as the super filly Untapable he has the ability for Rosie to get the perfect stalk-and-pounce trip, very similar to his recent dominant victory at Churchill Downs. A major contender Saturday, he will be a strong factor for the blue-ribbon.

6. Gold Appointment (20-1)
Trainer: Robert Rockwell
Rider: A Bracho
Owner: Robert J Rockwell
He did not race as a two-year old and has recorded three wins from six starts this year. Speed is his hole-card and to date he has not demonstrated the ability to rate. This will be the first time he has tested the mile-and-one-eighth distance or this proven, classy a field.

7. Divine View (10-1)
Trainer: Larry J Jones
Rider: KD Clark
Owner: Bereton C. Jones
The major plus for this colt is trainer Larry Jones who does not rush his runners and usually they improve with racing and maturity. He shows confidence and is not intimidated by the major three contenders. I will be using Divine View in my exotics.

8. Only I Know (50-1)
Trainer: Debra Rombis
Rider: CP Pilares
Owner: Flying G Racing LLC and Debra Rombis
He is the other entry in the field with experience over the Mountaineer track. Six of his seven starts over the local surface and both wins came early in his career, his first and second lifetime starts. He will be close to 50-1 odds or more when the gates open.

9. Candy Boy (9-5)
Trainer: John Sadler
Rider: Corey Nakatani
Owner: CRK Stable
As was the case with Tapiture and Vicar's in Trouble he was given time off after a troubled Kentucky Derby and returned to the track finishing second to the highly regarded Shared Belief at Los Alamitos Race Course. Candy Boy has a similar running style as Tapiture, best from off the pace and needs time to relax and settle early. He was my Kentucky Derby pick and will improve off a needed start, should love the Mountaineer race track surface. Jockey Corey Nakatani was his rider when he made his career debut at Del Mar in 2013.

Our eyes

I believe the race will be decided by one of the three main contenders, Tapiture, Vicar's in Trouble, or Candy Boy. Tapiture will assure a quick pace and be close to the lead throughout while Vicar's in Trouble also has enough speed to be in the first flight early. That leaves Candy Boy, breaking from the outside nine-post … my choice to win The West Virginia Derby. I look for him to settle in the second flight with Corey Nakatani keeping him clear and most importantly relaxed and comfortable down the back stretch. Candy Boy has a remarkable turn of foot and will demonstrate this off the far turn with a rally wide move to the leaders, lead, and victory. I will be using Tapiture, Vicar's in Trouble, Divine View and For Goodness Sake in my Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta wagers.