08/01/2013 1:53PM

Mountaineer notes: Stall content with Departing’s spot in West Virginia Derby

Barbara D. Livingston
Departingwon the Illinois Derby, then finished sixth in the Preakness.

This content is part of a free preview of DRF Plus. Click to learn more.

CHESTER, W. Va. – Al Stall Jr. thought Departing might be the favorite, but oh well. The Mountaineer morning line lists Departing as no better than the 5-2 co-second choice with Betweenhereandcool for the 44th West Virginia Derby, separated by quite a chasm from the 7-5 program choice, Overanalyze.

“I don’t know what that’s about,” Stall said this week from Saratoga as he and his wife, Nicole, made preparations to be here for the race Saturday. “I sure thought we had the credentials to maybe even be the favorite, but it doesn’t matter. What happens on the racetrack is what matters.”

Departing, bred and owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, has been highly regarded within the American ranks of 3-year-olds for months, ever since he won his career debut in late December at Fair Grounds. A gelded son of War Front, he won twice more before finishing a creditable third behind Revolutionary and Mylute and ahead of Palace Malice in the Louisiana Derby, then won the April  20 Illinois Derby with a flourish.

He then ran sixth, beaten 10 lengths, in the Preakness, after which Stall circled the West Virginia Derby on his calendar.

DRF Plus Preview

“This race is a perfect fit for us,” he said, noting that the Matt Winn at Churchill Downs “came back too soon, and running a gelding against some of those top 3-year-olds in the Jim Dandy or Haskell didn’t make any sense. This really did stand out on the calendar for us. After this we can run back in one more of the derbies,” those being the Pennsylvania Derby, Super Derby, or Indiana Derby.

Departing will be ridden by Robby Albarado because his regular jockey, Brian Hernandez Jr., was committed to ride Fort Larned in the Whitney on Saturday at Saratoga. The gelding has had six workouts since the Preakness, and Stall is confident he is primed for a big effort.

“He’s on target, no question,” he said.

Borel on happy road trip

Saturday marks the start of an unforgettable week for Calvin Borel, the three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey who earlier this year became the 26th jockey to hit the 5,000-victory milestone. John Velazquez and Terry Houghton have both since joined the 5,000 club.

Borel and his wife, Lisa, were scheduled to drive here Friday from their Louisville home, with the popular 46-year-old jockey named to ride three horses Saturday, ending with longshot Ruler of Love in the West Virginia Derby.

On Sunday, they will drive to Saratoga, where they will spend the week leading up to Borel’s induction into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on Friday.

“He’ll have his tack with him at Saratoga, but I don’t know if he’ll ride any,” said agent Doc Danner. “It’s going to be a great week for him.”

Danner said Borel’s older brother, trainer Cecil Borel, is scheduled to be on hand for the induction ceremony, as is Borel’s longtime former agent, Jerry Hissam.

Last year’s winner faded

The 2012 West Virginia Derby was the race when Hansen finally was allowed to run with his tail painted blue – but all that did, apparently, was slow him down. The champion 2-year-old of 2011 faded to finish fourth as the 3-5 favorite in a race won by Macho Macho for owner Jerry Durant and trainer Steve Asmussen, the same connections that will be represented Saturday by Betweenhereandcool.

Macho Macho, by the way, has had just four races since his moment in the West Virginia sun, and none ended in victory. After finishing second to Handsome Mike in the Pennsylvania Derby, the gray colt was sold to Prince Faisal bin Khale bin Abdulazi, with Asmussen continuing to train. After three defeats this year, ending with the June 1 Mountainview at Penn National, the horse was taken away from Asmussen and has not had a workout since.

Hansen never raced again after suffering a tendon injury leading up to his next scheduled start, the Travers.

◗ Although all Mountaineer races are run with the use of “house silks,” whereby the jockey for No. 1 wears all red, the jockey for No. 2 wears all white, etc., an exception is made for the West Virginia Derby, with owners getting to use their own silks.

◗ The all-time Mountaineer attendance mark is 21,218, set four years ago when Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird ran third in the West Virginia Derby in his first post-Triple Crown start. Admission is free to Mountaineer, however, and the accuracy of any such figures seems dubious at best.