07/19/2013 1:08PM

Mountaineer: Departing training sharply ahead of West Virginia Derby

Four-Footed Fotos
Departing, who won the Grade 3 Illinois Derby in April, likely will be favored in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby on Aug. 3.

Departing has trained forwardly since his sixth-place finish in the Preakness and is “trending upward” toward his next start as the probable favorite in the Aug. 3 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park, trainer Al Stall Jr. said this week from Saratoga.

The winner of the Illinois Derby, Departing had four workouts at Churchill Downs before leaving for Saratoga, where he will breeze for the second time Monday, Stall said. He then will breeze once more before leaving for the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby.

“We’ve had this race on our radar for some time now,” Stall said.

Robby Albarado will pick up the mount on Departing at Mountaineer because Brian Hernandez Jr., the gelding’s regular rider, is committed to ride Fort Larned the same day in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga.

Nominations for the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby close Monday. Among the other 3-year-olds believed to be possible for the race are Overanalyze, winner of the Arkansas Derby for Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher, and runners from the Bob Baffert and Mark Casse stables. Entries will be drawn July 30.

Departing, bred and owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm, was beaten 10 lengths by the victorious Oxbow as a 10-1 shot in the May 18 Preakness. His prior race was a 3 1/4-length triumph in the April 20 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne.

“I really like how he’s rebounded,” Stall said. “We still have a lot of confidence in him and think he’s a really nice horse. The owners and I are all making plans to be there for the race.”

Meanwhile, Glenn Brookfield, the former assistant to Stall, has opened his own public stable at Keeneland and expects to have his first starter within the next week or so, possibly at Arlington Park. Brookfield, 49, has worked for numerous top trainers during a lengthy backstretch career.