The signature program of the racing season at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort will shift to a Sunday and be run mostly in the evening for 2023.
The last time the $500,000 Grade III West Virginia Derby was held at night was 2002, when Wiseman’s Ferry won the 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds. Since that time, it has been run on Saturday afternoons as the only daytime card of the Mountaineer meet.
This year’s race, along with the $200,000 Grade III West Virginia Governor’s Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile event for 3-year-olds and up, will be held Sunday, Aug. 6, with first post time scheduled for 5 p.m. Eastern. The Derby field is expected to break from the gate at 8:15 p.m.
Jim Colvin, director of racing at Mountaineer, said management decided to avoid going against other racetracks such as Saratoga Race Course on a signal-crowded Saturday afternoon. In addition, Mountaineer regularly races on Sundays—albeit with first post time of 7 p.m.—and Colvin hopes racing in a time spot familiar with Mountaineer bettors produces good results.
Colvin said Mountaineer, which has lights, has some flexibility with post times and would work along with the program from Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which begins its card at 5 p.m. Eastern.
The Derby and Governor’s Stakes attracted a combined 101 nominees. The program will include five open allowance races with the same conditions as the five stakes that previously made up the West Virginia Derby undercard.
Entries for the program will be taken Aug. 1.
Brad Cox, the leading trainer in the United States by earnings with $16.7 million as of July 26, has eight nominated to the West Virginia Derby. Among them are Grade I Arkansas Derby winner Angel of Empire and Grade II Indiana Derby winner Verifying. Cox is in search of his first West Virginia Derby victory.
Steve Asmussen, who has won five editions of Mountaineer’s premier race, has nominated three including Iowa Derby winner How Did He Do That and Red Route One, who was second in a pair of graded stakes on the Triple Crown trail at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
The 2022 West Virginia Derby winner, Skippylongstocking, is among the 57 nominated to the Governor’s Stakes. Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., Skippylongstocking would look to follow Zanjero, who won the Derby and Governor’s Stakes, respectively, in 2007-08.
Cox, who has won the Governor’s Stakes three times since 2014, has nominated four including Warrant, who finished second in the 2021 West Virginia Derby and is a three-time stakes winner.For more information, contact Tom LaMarra at 859-492-8365 or at