Derby brings the spotlight to area

Sometime right around 5:45 p.m. Saturday, fans of thoroughbred horse racing around the country and the world will turn their eyes toward Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.

They’ll be watching the 44th running of the West Virginia Derby. It’s listed as a Grade 2 stakes race, which means it ranks among some pretty exclusive company. The race, the eighth on the nine-race card, carries a purse of $750,000, making the 1 1/8-mile event one of the richest races that will be run anywhere in the world this weekend. In fact, when you add them all up, the purses from Saturday’s card, which begins at 2 p.m., total $1.65 million.

Great racing is only one aspect of derby day, however. The event offers a chance for Mountaineer -and West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle – to show themselves off to a broad audience. Thousands of fans make the trip to the Chester track each year to take in the festivities in person, and many hundreds of thousands more around the country will have the opportunity to view the race live on cable television.

The derby celebration actually gets under way at 8 p.m. today when country music legend Wynonna and her band, the Big Noise, take to the stage at the Harv. All in all, the weekend offers a chance to shine a positive spotlight on the region.

The annual growth of the derby is a tribute to the management at Mountaineer, which continues to work hard to provide an impressive entertainment complex to serve residents of the Tri-State Area and beyond.