08/04/2016 4:06PM

Departing one of many with shot in West Virginia Governor's Cup

Linscott Photography
After losing eight races in a row, Departing will have a decent chance to win his second straight in the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Cup.

Departing finally got back into the win column in the Michael Schaefer Memorial on July 16 at Indiana Grand, his first victory in more than a year. Now, he’s back at Mountaineer for the first time since winning the West Virginia Derby three years ago, and after losing eight races in a row, Departing will have a decent chance to win his second straight in the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Cup.

But he’ll need to be on his game. Departing beat seven foes with a nice pressing trip last out at Indiana, and on Saturday, he’s one of 12 entrants, several of whom appear capable of winning the dirt race at one mile and 70 yards.

Departing makes his second start since being moved into the barn of trainer Thomas Drury Jr. and is racing on three weeks’ rest with no published works between starts. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. let Departing show more speed last out than he has in many recent races, and Departing, who would surpass $2 million in career earnings with a win, responded with a two-length win over Rocket Time.

Al Stall trained Departing before Drury took over, trains Rocket Time, and also trains Great Minds, who is in from his Louisiana string to try the Governor’s Cup. Great Minds had mainly been a turf horse until last winter, but when switched to dirt miles, he won three in a row, including a victory over the capable Shotgun Kowboy in the Grade 3 Texas Mile. When last seen June 4, he finished second over a sloppy track in the Evangeline Mile.

:: WEST VIRGINIA DERBY: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live on DRF.com

“He really struggled with that Evangeline track,” Stall said.

S’Maverlous, with Florent Geroux riding for Mike Maker, would win this race if he runs back to his Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap win, but last out in the Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows, he pressed a slow pace and led at the stretch call, only to be passed late by three horses. The performance suggested that cracks were forming in S’maverlous’s façade and that he might be vulnerable Saturday. Some sort of case can, in fact, be made for 10 of the 12 entrants in what should be a spread race in the all-stakes late pick four.

Pleuven still on his game entering Speaker's Cup

Pleuven was a good-looking winner of the Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes two starts ago and had no chance to win the Warrior Veterans Stakes three weeks ago at Indiana Grand after he hit the gate at the start.

“I knew right away it was going to be tough to overcome that break,” said Phil Sims, who trains Pleuven for owner Nelson McMakin.

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With a decent start, Pleuven is very much the horse to beat in the Saturday finale, the $100,000 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker’s Cup over one mile and 70 yards on grass. Pleuven and jockey Channing Hill have the rail and with luck can work out a sweet pocket trip.

Before the Indiana race, the 5-year-old Pleuven had run well in three starts since returning from yearlong layoff, during which McMakin, a partner in the ownership group that brought Pleuven over from France, acquired the gelding outright. Pleuven was flattered when the Wise Dan runner-up, Kasaqui, returned to win the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap.

“He’s a neat little horse,” said Sims. “Nothing bothers him.”

Watchyourownbobber, who wired the Warrior Veterans, is one of several front-runners in the Speaker’s Cup, and besides Pleuven, a contested pace could help Hammers Terror and Bullards Alley, though Bullards Alley is better suited to longer distances.