CHESTER, W.Va. - Supporting stakes are important factors in fortifying the status of major racing events. The undercard competition in Saturday's Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby will be the strongest ever asssembled at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.
The entirety of the nine-race card offers purses totaling $1.65 million, and four horses who have already achieved seven-figure bankrolls are scheduled to go the post.
That's a record number for Mountaineer and if either Vicar's in Trouble or Tapiture win the West Virginia Derby, another millionaire will join the club.
Dalaunay, the 9-to-5 morning line favorite in the $100,000 Senator Robert C. Byrd Memorial Stakes, has slightly over $1 million in career purse earnings. Last year, Delaunay was a four-length winner of the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes. In May of this year, the 7-year-old gelding was a 3 1/2-length winner of Churchill's Aristides Stakes.
Russell Road, 20-to-1 in the morning line for the 'Byrd Memorial, has career earnings of $1.66 million. The 8-year-old gelding is one of the most prominent West Virginia-breds in history. Russell Road is a 20-time stakes winner. Nineteen of his black-type scores have occurred at West Virginia tracks, including three at Mountaineer.
Moonshine Mullin, the 8-to-5 favorite in the line for the $200,000 West Virginia Governor's Stakes, has a bankroll totaling $1.01 million. On June 14, the six-year-old horse was a front-running, 1 3/4-length winner of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill.
The post-time odds on Moonshine Mullin in the Stephen Foster were 10-to-1. The horses he defeated that evening included Will Take Charge, who was North America's champion three-year-old in 2013; Departing, last year's West Virginia Derby winner; Golden Ticket, who dead-heated for first in the 2012 Travers Stakes at Saratoga; and the 2011 West Virginia Derby winner Prayer for Relief.
Regally Ready, the 5-to-2 second choice in the morning line for the $100,000 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker's Cup, has $1.43 million in career earnings. The (now) 7-year-old gelding won the 2011 edition of the Grade 2 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs (the most recent occasion when the Breeders' Cup was hosted by the Louisville track).
He also won four other turf sprints in 2011, a trio of which were graded, and was victorious by three-quarters of a length on June 14 this year in Churchill Opening Verse Stakes. The Speaker's Cup is carded at one mile and 70 yards on the turf. The Opening Verse was a 1 1/16-mile turf event. Sprinting is Regally Ready's forte, but he has proven to be capable at a middle distance.
Saturday's Mountaineer undercard will include the presence of other premium horses as well. Carve, who on June 28 won the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows, is 7-to-2 in the morning line for the Governor's Stakes; Falling Sky, winner of this year's Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes, is 5-to-1 in the Governor's line.
The idea for West Virginia Derby Day is for it to be a celebration, not only of Mountaineer's racing heritage, but of the entirety of West Virginia's racing heritage - which dates back to the days when Charles Washington (the brother of President George) staged meets in the roadways leading to what eventually became Charles Town.
It's one day a year, and the biggest day for Mountaineer.
Admission and general parking at Mountaineer will be free.