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Familiar faces common for West Virginia Derby

BACK IN ACTION — Colonelsdarktemper, who won the race in 2017, is racing against for this year’s West Virginia Derby on Saturday in the Governor’s Stakes. -- Coady Photography

CHESTER — The West Virginia Derby program this Saturday at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort will again offer a substantial collective payday for participants with $1,075,000 up for grabs in seven stakes and an additional $42,000 for two overnight races that bookend the card.

That has been the case for decades given the share horse racing receives from revenue generated primarily from video lottery terminals at on-track casinos. The positioning of the Derby card in early August has been popular with horsemen and owners from other states, including Kentucky and those in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The horses may change from year to year, but their connections have a long history of frequently making the trip. That’s the case again in 2021.

Hall of Fame Todd Pletcher is no stranger to Mountaineer’s big day, and this year is the only trainer with a West Virginia Derby entrant to have won the race, which he did in 2015. He trains Grade II Wood Memorial Stakes winner Bourbonic, who drew post one in the $500,000 Grade III event, for Calumet Farm.

“Bourbonic has trained well since the Belmont Stakes,” Pletcher said. “He needed a little freshener and has responded well.”

Trainer Brad Cox has not won the West Virginia Derby but has had a regular presence in the multiple stakes on the card each year, and with success. Cox has two colts — Warrant and Kinetic Sky — entered in the seven-horse Derby.

According to statistics provided by Brisnet.com, Cox has nine victories — seven of them stakes — from 39 Mountaineer starts.

Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing won the West Virginia by eight lengths in 2013 and returned in 2016 to finish second in the Governor’s Stakes. The same connections have the Grade II stakes-placed Sprawl ready to go in the $200,000 Grade III Governor’s Stakes this year.

Though Departing missed out on the Derby Governor’s Stakes double, Colonelsdarktemper will take his shot at it on Saturday. The 2017 West Virginia Derby winner was claimed by FAS Racing for $25,000 in his 2021 debut, which he won, in late April, then won two starter allowance events at Churchill Downs by a combined 13 1/4 lengths for trainer Joe Sharp.

Colonelsdarktemper is among the seven entered in the Governor’s Stakes, which precedes the Derby as Race 7 with a probable post time of 4:55 p.m. Sharp has three other horses entered on the card in three of the $75,000 stakes.

For this year, anyone attending the races in the grandstand or on the apron 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.

First post time for the Saturday card is 2 p.m.

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