07/27/2012 1:27PM

Hastings: Taylors Deal considers trip for West Virginia Derby

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Taylors Deal is being considered for the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park on Aug. 4.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Trainer Troy Taylor and owner Glen Todd said they are seriously considering entering Taylors Deal in the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park on Aug. 4.

“If we can get in, we’re probably going to go,” Todd said.

Todd is aware that last year’s champion 2-year-old Hansen is a likely starter. Hansen dominated the Grade 3 Iowa Derby in his last start. Also expected to enter is Le Bernardin, who is coming off a win in the Grade 3 Pegasus at Monmouth on June 17. Last week, Todd was leaning toward keeping Taylors Deal at Hastings to run in the $50,000 B.C. Cup Stellar’s Jay on Aug. 6 instead of tackling Hansen. He is having second thoughts.

“We could run him in the Stellar’s Jay and pick up $30,000, or see how good he is and take a shot at $750,000,” Todd said. “I know how tough Hansen is, but if he can finish second, he is still going to earn $150,000.”

Taylors Deal is coming off a second-place finish behind his stablemate Devil in Disguise in the 1 1/16-mile, $50,000 Chris Loseth at Hastings on July 2. It was his first loss as a 3-year-old. He won the 1 1/16-mile, $75,000 Turf Paradise Derby in February and then easily won a six-furlong allowance race on opening day at Hastings on April 14. He certainly had excuses for his loss in the Chris Loseth. He was coming off a 2 1/2-month layoff, and while he was going three wide around the stretch turn with Fernando Perez aboard, Mario Gutierrez was guiding Devil in Disguise through a hole on the rail.

Devil in Disguise will be a heavy favorite when he runs in the $50,000 Count Lathum at Northlands Park on Aug. 4. The Count Lathum is the final prep for the Grade 3, $200,000 Canadian Derby on Aug. 25. Both Gutierrez, who rode Taylors Deal in the Turf Paradise Derby, and Perez think Taylors Deal is the better horse. Taylor agreed with their assessment.

“They are both pretty nice 3-year-olds, but Taylors Deal has shown us more,” Taylor said. “After he won so easily opening day here, we thought we had something special. We backed off and gave him some time, so he could be a fresh horse for the bigger races in the summer and fall, particularly the B.C. Derby. He was coming off a pretty long layoff in the Loseth, and we really hadn’t pushed him that hard.”

The Grade 3, $200,000 British Columbia Derby on Sept. 9 is the most important race at Hastings. Todd and Taylor have won just about everything else at Hastings, but are still looking for their first win in the derby.

Taylor was pleased with the way Taylors Deal worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.80 seconds with Gutierrez aboard last Sunday.

“He has definitely moved forward off his last race,” Taylor said.

Taylor and Todd have dominated racing at Hastings in recent years and more so this year.

Taylor has been the leading trainer at Hastings for five years in a row and is a lock to win his sixth title this year. He has won the last six stakes races at Hastings with horses owned by Todd. Including Commander, who won the Journal and Spangled Jimmy at Northlands Park, Todd had won eight stakes races in a row before St Liams Halo lost by a head to Hudson Landing in the $50,000 Mt. Rainier at Emerald Downs last Sunday. St Liams Halo was much the best, though. He was stuck on the rail behind horses between the eighth and quarter poles. With a clean trip, he was an easy winner. He’s headed to the Grade 2, $200,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 19. Taylor Said, a half-brother to Taylors Deal, also is a possibility for the Longacres Mile. Taylor Said has completely dominated the older handicap division at Hastings this year.

Todd and Taylor don’t go out of their way to find races they don’t have a realistic chances at winning. It is a bit out of character for them to consider shipping a horse that appears on paper to be overmatched across North America.

“It has been an unbelievable year,” Todd said. “I know we’re asking a lot of Taylors Deal, but if we didn’t think he had it in him, we wouldn’t do it. Mario thought he was good enough to win the [Sunland Park] Derby, and I chickened out. He has gotten better all summer, and we really don’t know how good he is. We like to win races and we don’t go on fishing trips very often. Plus, he’s a great shipper. You could set a bomb off, and it wouldn’t bother him.”

The plane is booked, rooms are rented, and it will be interesting to see if Taylors Deal makes the trip or not.

“Nobody knew who Mario Gutierrez was until he won the Kentucky Derby,” Todd said. “Maybe they’ll know who Taylors Deal is after the West Virginia Derby.”