08/06/2003 11:00PM

On the edge of stardom


Saturday's $600,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer didn't attract the stars of the 3-year-old division, but the 11-horse field might contain some late bloomers who will be players during the second half of the year.

Among the runners in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby are two lightly raced colts, Dynever and Soto, who have both shown promise in their brief careers.

Dynever, fourth in the Belmont Stakes in just his fifth career start, won the Aventura Stakes and Lone Star Derby in the spring. Soto, who was undefeated in three starts last year, including the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, won his only start this year in impressive fashion.

The other key horses in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby figure to be Mobil, a multiple stakes winner from Canada, and Florida shipper Supah Blitz, who is coming off a career-best performance in the slop in the Roman Brother at Calder last month.

During, who finished last in Sunday's Jim Dandy at Saratoga, was entered in the West Virginia Derby on Wednesday but was scratched by trainer Bob Baffert on Thursday.

Dynever, who drew the rail and jockey Edgar Prado, could go off as the favorite in his first start since the Belmont. In the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby in May, the Dynaformer colt encountered traffic in the stretch and then drew off to a 1 1/2-length win.

Christophe Clement, Dynever's trainer, said he has been patient with the colt.

"In the spring, I was very tender with him because he needed his time," Clement said. "He looks stronger now."

Soto, who is trained by Michael Dickinson, was given time off because of shin troubles after winning the Kentucky Jockey Club around two turns last November. Dr. David Lambert, the racing manager for Galopp LLC, the German-based partnership that owns Soto, said it was decided not to rush the colt back to the races in order to make the Triple Crown.

In his first start of the year, Soto was under wraps when he beat a weak allowance field by 3 3/4 lengths at Philadelphia Park on July 19. He covered six furlongs in a sizzling 1:08.80. He was closer to the pace in that race than he had been in his races last year.

"Last year, we didn't want him to get into a speed habit," Lambert said. "This year, his pace has been a little more insistent, but [Dickinson] has him super switched off and relaxed about it."

Ramon Dominguez rides Soto, who drew post 5.

Mike Keogh, who trains Canadian sensation Wando, entered Mobil, who won the Grade 3 Toronto Cup on the grass in his last start. He is also a stakes winner on the dirt.

"He was passed at the eighth pole in his last race and came on again," Keogh said.

Jorge Chavez, aboard last year's West Virginia Derby winner, Wiseman's Ferry, rides Mobil from post 6.

Outta Here, who dead-heated for third in the Swaps, is looking for his first win of the year. Lone Star Sky hasn't won a race in nine starts since last year's Cradle at River Downs.

Colita makes his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher, who is the runaway leader in the Saratoga standings.

The race will be shown live on ESPN during a one-hour telecast that begins at 5 p.m. Eastern.

* Six stakes share the card with the West Virginia Derby, including the $100,000 Governor's Handicap. Ten males were entered in the 1 1/16-mile race. The horse to beat is last year's winner, Docent, who is 3 for 3 at Mountaineer.