The West Virginia Derby, centerpiece of the racing season at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort, has attracted 47 nominations including the winner of the top stakes for 3-year-olds in Indiana and the winner of the Arkansas Derby.
The $500,000 Derby, a Grade III event at 1 1/8 miles, returns to the local calendar along with the $200,000, Grade III West Virginia Governor’s Stakes after a one-year hiatus. Though Mountaineer was open for live racing in August 2020, officials opted not to hold the Derby program because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and logistical issues with the shipping of horses from out of state.
The Derby, Governor’s Cup and five $75,000 stakes will be part of a nine-race program with first post time set for 2 p.m. EDT.
Derby nominees include JIL Stable and Jon Lapczenski’s Mr. Wireless, who won the Grade III Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino July 7. Mr. Wireless, who has three wins and a second in five starts, previously finished second in the Texas Derby at Lone Star Park.
Mr. Wireless is trained by Bret Calhoun, who in 2019 won the West Virginia Derby with Indiana Derby winner Mr. Money. Calhoun also captured the 1 1/16-mile Governor’s Stakes with Silver Dust on the same afternoon.
Trainer Steve Asmussen, who has five West Virginia Derby victories from 2005 to 2014, nominated Erv Woolsey and Keith Asmussen’s Super Stock, who won the Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in April and finished fourth in the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino in his last start July 2. Super Stock is a member of Asmussen’s string at Ellis Park in western Kentucky.
Asmussen, a member of the Racing Hall of Fame, is closing in on the record for most wins by a trainer in history. As of July 28, Asmussen had 9,436 victories, just nine shy of the record 9,445 held by the late Dale Baird, who won most of those races at Mountaineer, formerly named Waterford Park.
Trainer Brad Cox, a regular on West Virginia Derby day, has the most nominations with six. Among them is Twin Creek Racing Stables’ Warrant, who defeated Mr. Wireless in the Texas Derby. Warrant is currently based at Ellis Park; Cox also has nominees now stabled at Saratoga Race Course in New York.
Godolphin’s Gershwin, based at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland with Mike Stidham, won the Grade III Penn Mile at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course May 28 and subsequently finished fourth in the Grade III Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park in New York. Trainer Todd Pletcher, who usually enters a horse in the West Virginia Derby and won the race in 2015 with Madefromlucky, has four 3-year-olds nominated this year.
For this year, anyone attending the races in the grandstand or on the apron on West Virginia Derby day must purchase a ticket. To order tickets visit the Mountaineer Casino website.