51st running of Grade III West Virginia Derby Saturday
CHESTER — Mr. Wireless, who recently captured the $300,000 Indiana Derby, and Bourbonic, winner of the $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes in early April, are among the seven horses entered in the $500,000, Grade III West Virginia Derby, which will have its 51st running Saturday at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.
The 1 1/8-mile local fixture for 3-year-olds is carded as Race 8 on a nine-race program that begins at the special first post time of 2 p.m. The derby post time is set for 5:35 p.m. The card includes the $200,000, Grade III West Virginia Governor’s Stakes and five $75,000 stakes on the dirt and turf.
Mr. Wireless, a Kentucky-bred gelding by Dialed In, finished a troubled fifth in his career debut in Louisiana in March, but since then has gone three-for-four. He broke his maiden at Oaklawn Park later in March, then won an allowance race at the Arkansas track in early May.
Trainer Bret Calhoun then shipped him to Lone Star Park, where he finished second behind Warrant after a less-than-ideal journey. The Grade III Indiana Derby, which he won by 3 3/4 lengths while never worse than second, proved to be a breakout race for the Mr. Wireless, who is owned by JIL Stable and Jon Lapczenski.
Calhoun won the 2019 West Virginia Derby with Mr. Money, who like Mr. Wireless entered the race in top form. Mr. Wireless is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the West Virginia Derby, with regular rider Ramon Vazquez named.
“Everything has gone really well since his last start,” Calhoun said. “He’s improving and steadily getting better. It seems like we’re never getting to his bottom — he has a lot of stamina.”
Mr. Wireless has been training recently at Colonial Downs in Virginia with some of Calhoun’s other horses. They had been at Churchill Downs in Kentucky, but horses had to leave for a few months due to reconstruction of the turf course.
“It has been great at Colonial, which is a very horse-friendly place,” Calhoun said. “He seems have thrived here. His races have all been very good — he had an excuse in his first start — and his two-turn races have been better. He faced Warrant once and finished second, but I think a couple of things could have gone differently that day.”
Bourbonic, owned and bred by Calumet Farm, posted a 72-1 upset in the Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York before finishing 13th in the Grade I Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Grade I Belmont Stakes, the first and third legs of the Triple Crown, respectively. The colt by Bernardini is conditioned by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who won the 2015 West Virginia Derby with Madefromlucky.
Bourbonic, the 3-1 third choice on the morning line, has been working regularly on the training track at Belmont Park in New York. Eric Cancel is named to ride.
Twin Creek Racing Stables’ Warrant, who defeated Mr. Wireless in the Texas Derby in late May and hasn’t raced since, is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line. He is trained by Brad Cox, who also entered Robert LaPenta’s Kinetic Sky (6-1) in the Derby.
Warrant, never worse than third in five starts, worked a sizzling :59 2/5 for five furlongs at Ellis Park in Kentucky, Kinetic Sky, who worked the same time in company with Warrant, will make his stakes debut in the West Virginia Derby. Warrant will be ridden by Florent Geroux, while Joe Talamo is listed aboard Kinetic Sky.
The Derby wasn’t run in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions and logistical issues, with shippers from out of state. The race has a history of stops and starts, but it had been held for 22 consecutive years since 1998, when it returned to the Mountaineer calendar after a seven-year absence.
For this year, anyone attending the races in the grandstand or on the apron on West Virginia Derby day must purchase a ticket because patron attendance is limited to 1,500. To order tickets visit the Mountaineer Casino website.
In the event the limited number of tickets are not all purchased online, walk-up ticket purchases will be permitted on race day until the limit is reached. For those who don’t have tickets, tailgating will be permitted on the grassy area that overlooks the backstretch and far turn.
Mountaineer will be offering advance wagering on the entire derby program on Friday in the casino off-track betting area for those who may not wish to attend on race day. Online wagering is also available through various advance deposit wagering outlets including TVG.
$500,000 WEST VIRGINIA DERBY (Grade III)
Post Horse Jockey Odds
1 Bourbonic Eric Cancel 3-1
2 Kinetic Sky Joe Talamo 6-1
3 Bourbon Thunder Deshawn Parker 8-1
4 Mr. Wireless Ramon Vazquez 9-5
5 Warrant Florent Geroux 5-2
6 Channel Fury Malcolm Franklin 10-1
7 Americainaed Joe Mussaro 50-1