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Mountaineer Park Gearing Up For West Virginia Derby

Mountaineer Park, located in New Cumberland (WV), is gearing up to host its biggest race day on August 6. Mountaineer will have eight stakes races on the day, featuring two Grade III events with the West Virginia Derby and West Virginia Governor’s Stakes.

The first post of the day is slated for 2 p.m., marking Mountaineer’s only afternoon card of the year and the total purse of over $1 million is the highest one-day outlay in the state.

Derby Day is not only important for the horseman, with the huge purse, but also for Mountaineer Park as it is the most patron traffic they see all year. Mountaineer limits the horse racing capacity to 1,500 for the day and charges $10 to enter, which is unusual as, typically, there is no fee to watch the racing at the park.

West Virginia Derby

The Grade III West Virginia Derby is the longest-running thoroughbred event in West Virginia and is for 3-year-olds who will run one and one-eighth-mile for a purse of $500,000. This year is the 52nd edition of the event, although it has only been held at Mountaineer since 1963.

While the West Virginia Derby occasionally gets Triple Crown participants, this year could be one of the best fields ever. According to Mountaineer Park, they received 31 total nominations headlined by Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, Skippylongstockings, and Simplification.

Skippylongstockings will definitely participate at Mountaineer next Saturday, per trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. The son of Exaggerator finished third and fifth in the Belmont Stakes and Preakness, respectfully, despite being long shots in both events. Skippylongstockings has six top 3 finishes in 11 starts with two wins.

“He’s going to the West Virginia Derby,” said Joseph Jr. “He’ll probably arrive two days before the race. He has been training well and needed a little freshening (after the Belmont). This race was the main target for him.”

Meanwhile, Simplification’s West Virginia Derby status is up in the air. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness participant may choose to run in the Smarty Jones Stakes later in August at Parx rather than next week. Simplification has not “hit the board in his last two races,” but he does have three victories and six “in the money” finishes.

Rich Strike is not expected to participate in the Derby, opting for the Saratoga Travers Stakes instead. However, if his connections change their mind following some workouts at Churchill Downs, he would be the second ever Kentucky Derby winner to participate in the event. 2009 “Run for the Roses” champion Mine That Bird finished third at Mountaineer.

Other nominations include Home Brew, Actuator, Best Actor, and King Ottoman. Actuator has won his last two races and is coming off a victory in Grade III Indiana Derby, besting Best Actor and King Ottoman. The Indiana Derby winner has also won three of the last five West Virginia Derbies.

West Virginia Governor’s Stakes

The West Virginia Governor Stakes is a one-and-one-sixteenth mile event for 3-years-old and upwards with a purse of $200,000. The race has 46 nominations this year, including Mr. Wireless, who won the West Virginia Derby last year. Mr. Wireless will likely be the favorite in next week’s race as he is coming off a victory in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial at Horseshoe Indianapolis and has five wins in nine career starts.

If Mr. Wireless does win the Governor’s Stakes, he would be the first horse to pull off the Mountaineer double. Sprawl is the defending champion, but it is unknown whether he will race in the event this year. M B Sea is the only horse to win the Governor’s Stakes multiple times (2005, 2007).

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