07/30/2014 12:44PM

Tapiture well rested for West Virginia Derby

Barbara D. Livingston
Tapiture, training two weeks ago at Saratoga, has had seven weeks off before the West Virginia Derby.

After two difficult races, Tapiture bounced back to his best form last time out in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. On Saturday, he will shoot for the biggest victory of his career in the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino.

Tapiture had six weeks to recharge between the Kentucky Derby and his Winn victory and has now had a seven-week break between the Winn and the West Virginia Derby.

“Giving him time between races seems to be working for him,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “We expect a big race from him this weekend.”

Tapiture had a busy winter and spring. After completing his 2-year-old season by winning the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November, he began his 3-year-old campaign by making short work of his competition in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Although he was beaten a half-length by Hoppertunity in the Rebel Stakes in his next start, his effort was similarly good. Over a wet track, jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. had to push his way outside for racing room entering the stretch. Tapiture then fought hard from between horses through a roughly run final furlong and just missed.

:: West Virginia Derby: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live

But things didn’t go Tapiture’s way in his next two races. He made a menacing four-wide move in the Arkansas Derby but had to settle for fourth behind Danza, who slipped through along the inside and pulled away to win by almost five lengths. In the Kentucky Derby, Tapiture broke from post 15 and raced wide on both turns before tiring to finish 15th.

Asmussen has won the West Virginia Derby four times, more than any other trainer. He also has feasted on the undercard, winning the West Virginia Governor’s Stakes, Mountaineer Juvenile, and Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies twice each.

In his career, Asmussen is 16 for 52 – a 30 percent win rate – at Mountaineer. According to DRF ’s Formulator, over the last five years, Asmussen is 5 for 17 (29 percent) at Mountaineer, with a return on investment of $4.54.

He is bringing six horses in for Saturday’s nine-race card, which is comprised entirely of stakes. With a 2 p.m. Eastern first post Saturday at Mountaineer, Rosie Napravnik, who is named to ride all the Asmussen horses, will have to take an afternoon off from Saratoga.

Amoss, Maker well stocked

Trainers Tom Amoss and Mike Maker are quite familiar with the route from Louisville, Ky., to Mountaineer and will be well represented Saturday.

Maker will be sending in five horses, topped by Louisiana Derby winner Vicar’s in Trouble, who might be the quickest entrant in the West Virginia Derby. Vicar’s in Trouble was outfinished in his last start, the Grade 3 Iowa Derby, over a very sloppy track.

“He might have the best speed,” Maker said. “I prefer the track is dry, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

The weather forecast in Chester, W.Va., on Saturday calls for scattered thunderstorms and a 40 percent chance of precipitation, according to Weather.com.

Amoss has seven entrants on the card, including the remarkable 7-year-old sprinter Delaunay. Owner Maggi Moss claimed Delaunay for $40,000 in 2012, and he has since won multiple graded stakes and more than $773,000.

Delaunay finished second by a half-length to Work All Week over a muddy track in the $125,000 Iowa Sprint in his most recent start. Work All Week had a seven-race winning streak broken last Saturday at Arlington Park when he finished second under 130 pounds in an Illinois-bred handicap.

Amoss, who won his 3,000th career race Wednesday, is having an amazing season even by his own high-percentage standards. Coming into Wednesday's races, he had won 114 races from 329 starts, a 34 percent success rate. His career figures are quite similar at Mountaineer, where he is 99 for 284 (34 percent).

Purses up for West Virginia Breeders' Classics card

Purses for the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics program at Charles Town on Oct. 18 will total $1.28 million, an increase of $125,000 from 2013, according to a release issued by the track.

The day’s nine stakes for West Virginia-breds will be topped by the $500,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles. The second-richest stakes of the night is the $200,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Cavada Classic for fillies and mares at seven furlongs.

Four of the supporting stakes received a $20,000 purse increase to $85,000 this year, and another three were increased $15,000 each to $80,000.