CHESTER - A field of nine, including a quartet of graded stakes winners, has been entered for the 41st running of the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby. The 1 1/8-mile event will be run at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort on Saturday, and will anchor a nine-race card consisting entirely of open stakes, with purse values totaling $1.52 million.
Post time for the first race will be 2 p.m. The West Virginia Derby will be the eighth race and has a scheduled post of 5:45 p.m.
The West Virginia Derby and the race immediately preceding it, the $125,000 West Virginia Governor's Stakes at 1 1/16 miles for three-year-olds and upward, will be televised live from 5-6 p.m. on Fox Sports Net.
Included in the West Virginia Derby field will be Skipshot, who won the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 17, and is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer; and Concord Point, who won the Grade 3 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows on June 26, and is trained by Bob Baffert.
''The post we drew (No. 7) is a good one,'' said Baffert's assistant, Jim Barnes, who will handle saddling chores at Mountaineer for the 8-5 morning line favorite, Concord Point. ''Our horse has been doing really well - he worked a six-furlong bullet (in 1:13) at Del Mar on July 31.''
''We're looking forward to going to West Virginia and running,'' said Hollendorfer, who finished second in the 2007 West Virginia Derby with Bwanna Bull. ''I can't really comment on the competition we'll be facing - I'll have to take a good look at the Daily Racing Form first.''
The entrants further include Exhi, who has won four consecutive races, one of which was the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 17, and is trained by Todd A. Pletcher; and Thiskyhasnolimit, who last November won the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, and is trained by three-time West Virginia Derby winner Steven M. Asmussen.
Also among the entrants are Nacho Friend, who finished third in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 6, and is trained by Kelly J. Breen; Not Abroad, who was second in the $105,000 Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park on July 10, and is trained by Michael P. Petro; and Gunfighter, who is a multiple allowance race winner at Monmouth Park this year, and is trained by Anthony W. Dutrow.
Rounding out the field are Toh's Grey Cat, who has a maiden victory in five career starts, and is trained by Gerald R. Bennett; and Shookstown Road, who also has a maiden score in five career starts, and is trained by Vernon J. Allinson.
Bennett concedes his horse will be a long shot.
''But if you don't run in the big races, you can't win them,'' Bennett said. ''Toh's Grey Cat is maturing, and I think we're going to have a lot of fun with him as time goes on.''
And, yes, long shots have won the West Virginia Derby before.
There has been one prior instance where four horses have been entered in the West Virginia Derby with graded stakes triumphs already attached to their resumes. This was in 2007 - three went postward and one was scratched. A non-member of the group, Zanjero, was victorious that year.
Zanjero was ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, who is the only jockey in this year's race to have a prior West Virginia Derby victory on his resume. Bridgmohan also rode More Than Regal to a third-place finish in the West Virginia Derby in 2006.
Martin Garcia, who won this year's Preakness Stakes and Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Handicap with the Baffert trainee Lookin at Lucky, has the mount on Concord Point, and will be riding in the West Virginia Derby for the first time.
Robby Albarado, who piloted Curlin to a pair of North American Horse of the Year titles, will be aboard Exhi in the West Virginia Derby. Albarado has twice ridden in the West Virginia Derby, and finished unplaced both times.
Hosting the Fox Sports Net telecast will be Caton Bredar and Kurt Hoover, with the assistance of reporter Jill Byrne. There will also be a half-hour West Virginia preview show that will air on Fox Sports Pittsburgh at 6 p.m. Friday, and will re-air Saturday at 10 a.m.
As always, admission and general parking at Mountaineer will be free.