08/06/2006 12:00AM

Bright One best in West Virginia Derby

Chuck Saus / Mountaineer
Bright One, Mark Guidry up, wins the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort on Sunday.

Bright One proved easily best when making his first start in a graded stakes and his first around two turns Sunday in the Grade 3 , as he led every step of the signature event at the Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort in Chester, W.Va.

Confidently ridden by Mark Guidry, Bright One was never seriously threatened when prevailing by 5 3/4 lengths over Cielo Gold in the 37th West Virginia Derby. Bright One, now a winner in 3 of 4 career starts, returned $4 as the solid favorite and earned $450,000 from the $750,000 purse.

"He's living up to his billing," said trainer Dale Romans. "He's just getting better every time."

After breaking sharply from his rail post, Bright One relaxed on fractions of :23.60, :47.12 and 1:11.76 when nursing a length or so lead over Wanna Runner. Turning for home, as Wanna Runner began to fade, both Ah Day and Cielo Gold took brief runs at the leader, but then Guidry let out a notch, and the issue was quickly resolved. Bright One finished 1 1/8 miles was 1:50.08 over a fast track.

Cielo Gold, a 23-1 shot, finished second, another 3 1/4 lengths before late-running More Than Regal. Ah Day was another 1 3/4 lengths back in fourth, while Wanna Runner, the 7-2 second choice, faded to sixth. Both halves of the West Point Thoroughbreds entry, Flashy Bull and High Finance, were early scratches, leaving a field of 10 3-year-olds.

Bright One, by Dance Brightly, was bred and is co-owned by Mike and Carolyn Bruder of Evansville, Ind. Before the colt's last race, a 7-length win in a July 15 overnight stakes at Churchill Downs, the Bruders sold half-interest in the colt to their longtime friend, Delmar Daubs.

Romans said he may consider the Aug. 26 Travers Stakes at Saratoga as the next race for Bright One, who was scheduled to return Sunday night to Churchill. "We'll have to sit down and talk about it," he said. "If he does run in the Travers, I'll fly him up to Saratoga."

The West Virginia Derby was the highlight of easily the richest card of the year at Mountaineer. All nine Sunday races were stakes. In the rest of the Sunday action:

* Cherokee's Boy ($7.40) showed his mettle once again as he fought back after surrendering the lead to capture the $125,000 West Virginia Governor's Stakes.

Bred and owned by ZWP Stables and based in Maryland with trainer Gary Capuano, Cherokee's Boy led early before being passed from the outside by Halos Sailing Sain late in the final turn. But the 6-year-old horse rallied back to win by a length, with Halos Sailing Sain holding off It's No Joke by a nose for second. Real Dandy, the 2005 West Virginia Derby winner, was fourth, while Don't Get Mad, the 9-5 favorite, never fired when finishing last of six.

Cherokee's Boy now has won 18 of 45 starts and just over $1.1 million. He completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.72.

* Yucatan ($8.20) capitalized on a searing pace when looping to the field to win the $125,000 Harvey Arneault Breeders' Cup Memorial Stakes. Ridden by Dana Whitney, Yucatan prevailed by three lengths over P. Kerney, the 8-5 favorite who outlasted several other front-runners when finishing three-quarters of a length ahead of late-running Wild Tale.

Yucatan, based at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington, Ky., with trainer Sherman Mitchell, now has won 8 of 21 starts. The Arneault is his richest career win.

* Island Escape ($8) got a great inside trip from Jesus Castanon when overtaking favored Stella Blue for a 1 1/2-length triumph in the $113,000 West Virginia Senate President's Breeders' Cup.

Just six fillies and mares started in the one-mile turf race. Stella Blue led most of the way under Robby Albarado before Island Escape came through a rail opening to edge clear. Nick Canani trains the winner for breeder-owner Everest Stables.

* Speedway ($17.60) got a cagey off-the-pace ride from Calvin Borel before surging past Datrick in the final furlong for a 1 1/2-length victory in the $85,000 Mountaineer Juvenile. Air Lord, the 6-5 favorite, finished third despite losing virtually all chance when stumbling badly at the start.

* Hot Storm ($3.20), ridden by Mark Guidry, used an overpowering stretch run to register her seventh victory from her last nine starts in the $85,000 Secretary of State. Miss Macy Sue led most of the way before saving second, 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner.

* Outcashem ($3.40), with Dunkelberger riding for Scott Lake, won for the seventh straight time when cruising to a two-length score over Bernie Blue in the $85,000 Chairman's Cup. Caller One, the $3.2-million earner, finished fourth after stumbling badly at the start.

* Change Up ($4), with Castanon aboard, sped away from second-choice Appealing Zophie for a 4 1/2-length tally in the $85,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies.

* Maryland shipper Legal Control ($34.20), ridden by Dana Whitney, was up in the final jump to nip Touch by Madness by a nose in the $85,000 House of Delegates Speaker's Cup, a one-mile turf race marred by a spill on the first turn involving jockeys Andrew Ramgeet and Chad Murphy. Both riders escaped serious injury, according to track officials.