by Dustin Fabian
August 6, 2021
Back after a one-year hiatus, the Grade 3, $500,000 West Virginia Derby returns for its 51st edition on Saturday, August 7, 2021 at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort. Among the horses set to run in Mountaineer’s marquee event are Wood Memorial winner Bourbnic, Indiana Derby winner Mr. Wireless and Texas Derby victor Warrant.
At Xpressbet and 1/ST BET we’re getting in on the festivities by offering a $4,000 Cash Split - $2,000 for each bet for customers who take down the Early Pick 4 (Races 2 – 5) or Late Pick 4 (Races 6 – 9).
Here is one man’s take on the Early and Late Pick 4’s. On a day where out-of-state shippers should outclass the ‘home team,’ we’ll need to be precise with our plays. Price horses may be hard to come by on Saturday, so you may want to pare your tickets down to the horses you’re most confident in and take your swing accordingly at a higher base amount. Or, consider going ‘all in’ against a particularly vulnerable favorite – there are a few on the card!
EARLY PICK 4 // RACES 2 – 5
RACE 2 (2:25PM ET) // $75K HOUSE OF DELEGATES SPEAKER’S CUP // 1 MILE, 70 YARDS (TURF)
#2 MONARCHS GLEN (MAKER/GEROUX) – 7/2 – Enters off a stakes win at Indiana Grand and has regained his top form after a pair of subpar efforts in March and May. He will likely trail the field early, making him both pace-dependent and traffic-dependent. Mike Maker is one of the hottest trainers in North America right now and Florent Geroux is going to be the best jock at Mountaineer on Saturday, so you can’t afford not to use him.
#4 LOGICAL MYTH (SHARP/LANERIE) – 5/2 – Have to wonder if locking horns with horses like Cross Border, Colonel Liam, Set Piece, Captivating Moon and Spectacular Gem all winter and spring have softened this one’s prolific punch. His last three races have been a stark form reversal from what we saw from him in January and February, but this is not a bad place to regain some confidence.
#11 CANNON’S ROAR (CAPUANO/MARQUEZ) – 6/1 – Hate the outside post but he has not run a bad turf race in nearly two years (7-3-3-1 in 2020/21) and think he has a tactical edge with Marquez back in the irons. The last two times Marquez was aboard, he took advantage of a forward stalking trip and thinking he won’t be an easy tactic if they employ the same tactic on Saturday.
RACE 3 (2:55PM ET) // $75K SECRETARY OF STATE S. // 6 FURLONGS (DIRT)
#1 CLUB CAR (COLEBROOK/LANERIE) – 1/1 – No fun singling even-money but this one runs well on any surface and at any track and any of her last five or six races would be enough to win here. Not a strong field and the only cause for pause will be to keep an eye on scratches. If #7 SHY MONEY, #4 SHEISTHEHERO or #6 NOMIZAR defect, you may have to back into using the ML second choice, #5 COMMAND STRIKE, at 8/5. CLUB CAR is the better runner, but tactics give COMMAND STRIKE an edge if she gets loose.
RACE 4 (3:25PM ET) // $75K LEGISLATURE CHAIRMAN’S CUP // 4 1/2 FURLONGS (DIRT)
#1 PRIMAL DESTINY (PATTERSON/OLIVEROS) – 4/1 – Rail draw puts this one on a ‘send’ mission from the start but the son of Poseidon’s Warrior has won eight straight races, including two at Mountaineer. A quick break is essential but he’ll be tough to reel in with a fast start.
#8 HOLLIS (ORTIZ/GUTIERREZ) – 5/2 – Dispatched much nicer horses in an Oaklawn allowance in April but maybe slightly concerned about the layoff since Preakness Day and the worktab since. Shows only four works since July 4 and have to think this horse will need to be sharp in order to score here going 4 1/2 furlongs. He’s the horse to beat, but you’d prefer to see a bit more recency.
#10 WILLISTON WAY (ACEVEDO/PARKER) – 6/1 – Would be a shame if Deshawn Parker didn’t win in his return to Mountaineer and have to think he’s got a big chance here. Primarily campaigned on the lawn, he has compiled a 4-2-2-0 record in his last four dirt races and may appreciate getting off the grass as his last two starts were not strong.
RACE 5 (3:55PM ET) // $75K SENATE PRESIDENT’S CUP // 1 MILE, 70 YARDS (TURF)
#8 EVIL LYN (MAKER/GEROUX) – 7/5 – Doesn’t show a long series of super fact races, but is a consistent stakes performer and of the two favorites, this is the one to probably feel better about. The lone clunkers in the last year came in a 6 1/2 furlong race at Kentucky Downs and a Grade 3 at Gulfstream, otherwise she is almost always right there at the finish. Geroux piloted her to a win in a Churchill allowance last November and a second, beaten just a nose, in the Pago Hop at the Fair Grounds.
EARLY PICK 4 TICKET
RACE 2: 2, 4, 11 (Backups N/A)
RACE 3: 1 (Backup 5)
RACE 4: 1, 8, 10 (Backups 2, 4, 6)
RACE 5: 8 (Backup 2)
COST: $4.50 for 50-cents
LATE PICK 4 // RACES 6 – 9
RACE 6 (4:25PM ET) // $75K SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD S. // 6 FURLONGS (DIRT)
#2 BIG MONEY MIKE (RICHISON/VIGIL) – 9/2 – Probably is ‘speed of the speed’ and shows a series of very fast workouts for this comeback race. Yes, these are workouts at Mountaineer, but note that the 7/27 work was 2 seconds faster than anyone else that worked the distance. The gap in works from June 13 to July 27 concerns, but all four works on record are bullet 4f moves. I’d expect this horse is in shape and is a fair alternative to the chalk.
#7 MOUNT TRAVERS (SHARP/LANERIE) – 7/5 – Last two races were atrocious but that’s why probably why they’re taking a shot here. He’s only 3-for-19 in his career and just 1-for-11 since the start of 2020, but having a hard time envisioning he won’t run well here. The only downside, he’s a tough horse to trust off two clunkers and there’s no value.
RACE 7 (4:55PM ET) // GRADE 3 GOVERNOR’S S. // 1 1/16 MILES (DIRT)
#1 SPRAWL (DRURY/TALAMO) – 8/5 – Was third last out in the G2 Stephen Foster behind Maxfield and Warrior’s Charge, so the talent and form is there. The big question – can he do it away from Churchill Downs? In his last six races away from Louisville, he’s 6-0-0-2. His close-up fourth in the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland on April 10 was a step in the right direction, but still need to see him take his form on the road.
#3 COLONELSDARKTEMPTER (SHARP/LANERIE) – 5/1 – Price would be a great grab on the 2017 West Virginia Derby winner, who enters this off four straight open-lengths wins for Joe Sharp against much lesser competition. He has been a different animal since Sharp claimed him for $25K on April 27 and while the water here is deeper, he is a ‘must use’ for me.
#4 BOURBON CALLING (WILKES/PARKER) – 6/1 – He’s going to get lost on the board but I’m OK with that. He has no early speed and is extremely pace dependent, but hey…there’s a lot of frontrunning types in this bunch. He has run races (G3 Ack Ack and Russell Road S.) last fall that put him right there at the finish and while he’s a bit of a stretch, he should be motoring late.
#5 MIGHTY HEART (CARROLL/FUKUMOTO) – 3/1 – The class of the field, last year’s Queen’s Plate winner has won two of his last three dirt races and the lone defeat came off a six-month layoff. His win in the G3 Dominion Day at Woodbine last out was nothing short of dominant and if he shows up for this race at Mountaineer, they’ll all have to go through him.
RACE 8 (5:35PM ET) // GRADE 3 WEST VIRGINIA DERBY // 1 1/8 MILES (DIRT)
#1 BOURBONIC (PLETCHER/CANCEL) – 3/1 – He’s a coin flip horse and probably a horse that you wait to include based on how the track is playing. This edition of the WV Derby has a particularly cloudy pace setup and this horse would need a ton of pace to really factor. You can make a case in this race for three horses to send (2, 4, 6)…or none of them go. And if none of them go, it’s hard to envision BOURBONIC sustaining a closing bid past either of the next two.
#4 MR. WIRELESS (CALHOUN/VAZQUEZ) – 9/5 – This is a great spot for him and #5 WARRANT to renew their rivalry. WARRANT got the best of things in the $300,000 Texas Derby on May 31, but that race came over a sloppy sealed track. MR. WIRELESS has never lost going two turns on a fast track and has never finished worse than second with Vazquez in the irons. That win in the G3 Indiana Derby last out is a nice feather in his cap, too.
#5 WARRANT (COX/GEROUX) – 5/2 – You have to think Geroux has his pick of the two Brad Cox horses (the other being #2 KINETIC SKY) and he landed here, which gives a vote of confidence. He hasn’t been seen since the Texas Derby, but Brad Cox has a lot of nice three-year-olds and you have to assume this one has been targeting this spot all along.
RACE 9 (6:00PM ET) // ALLOWANCE // 7 FURLONGS (TURF)
#2 A MERRY PRANKSTER (HUBLEY/OLIVEROS) – 5/2 – This will be a race to watch the scratches in as this event will both be the longest of this horse’s career and the first around two turns. She’s also stuck in a race where three or four other rivals would like to be up front, which could muddy the picture.
#3 BEE WINGS (BERNARDINI/PARKER) – 10/1 – You have to go back to last September to find this one’s best races and that 1-for-19 mark screams ‘PASS.’ But you’re getting a very nice price on a horse in a race that figures to have a quick pace and you’re getting the most prolific jockey in the last few decades at Mountaineer, Deshawn Parker. Parker will need to ride a great race and she’ll need some luck, but at 10/1 you could do so much worse.
#8 ON BRILLIANT (REED/LEON) – 1/1 – She’s even-money for a reason and I have to think she’s the class of the field while making her second start off the layoff. Eric Reed has been one of the most prolific trainers at Mountaineer this year (20-for-63) and that is just icing on the cake. My gut is, if nobody scratches, try to beat the 2 horse with this one and one or two other longshots.
#12 YOU’RE DOING FINE (KELLER/HERNANDEZ) – 7/2 – She’s an ALSO ELIGIBLE and would need to draw in, but if she does, she is as good as any of these. Her lone win came at Fair Grounds on the lawn and she finished 2nd in a similar race here on June 16 with a big (for this group) 65 Beyer.
LATE PICK 4 TICKET
RACE 6: 2, 7 (Backup N/A)
RACE 7: 1, 3, 4, 5 (Backup 6)
RACE 8: 4, 5 (Backup 1, 2)
RACE 9: 3, 8 (Backup 2, 12)