08/04/2011 9:28PM

Rush Now's speed key in West Virginia Derby


WEST VIRGINIA DERBY DAY: Video Analysis, news, PPs and LIVE streaming video of the entire card.

Many horseplayers believe that the longer a race, the better the chance of a closer's success, and they tend to bet that way. They look for the late-runner, reasoning the adding distance will move them up.

The problem is that longer races typically attract less speed, and the pace can, in turn, unfold slower, giving the advantage back to the front-runner.

Generally, I'd much rather have the closer in a one-turn mile race -- races that tend to attract stretching-out sprinters -- and support the speed horse in 1 1/8-mile races -- distance races in which late-runners often make up the majority of the field.

Why do I bring this up? Because there is a prime betting opportunity on a front-runner Saturday in a 1 1/8-mile race -- with that horse being midpriced longshot Rush Now in the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park.

He didn't catch that easy pace scenario the last time he raced. Competing in the Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park going a mile and 70 yards, he caught a speed-laden field and was unable to secure his preferred running position on the lead.

He still turned in a respectable effort, chasing a half-mile split in 45.67 seconds, taking the lead in midstretch, and then tiring to finish a close fourth, beaten 3 1/2 lengths behind Awesome Bet.

As is typical of a 1 1/8-mile race, there is less speed in the West Virginia Derby field. Most of the entrants are closers, such as Awesome Bet and Infrattini, or stalkers, such as favored Prayer for Relief.

Even the few opponents in the field that have shown speed on occasion don't figure to want to exhibit it in the West Virginia Derby.

For example, Little Drama -- a half-brother to 2010 sprint champion Big Drama -- won the Frank Gomez Stakes on the lead last year as a juvenile at Calder, but with stamina being a question mark with him, for him to challenge Rush Now could be his ticket to retreating to the rear half of the pack.

Plus, his connections seem to have been working on getting him to relax of late.

The connections of the runners in the West Virginia Derby field realistically have to fear Prayer for Relief most. He's the Iowa Derby winner and favorite, and it seems a safe bet that the jockeys on these runners will choose to let Rush Now go, hoping he simply isn't good enough to upset.

I'll be betting that he can. This is a horse that is capable of running very quickly when able to make the front, and being by Tiznow and already a two-time stakes winner going two turns, there is nothing to suggest he can't get the distance.

Best yet, the price is right on him, and coming off a loss, he should stay close to his 6-1 morning line, especially with the public is sure to jump on Prayer for Relief, starting for red-hot trainer Bob Baffert.


WEST VIRGINIA DERBY DAY: Video Analysis, news, PPs and LIVE streaming video of the entire card.