08/03/2013 6:00PM

West Virginia Derby: Departing leaves rivals far behind

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Departing and jockey Robby Albarado cruise to victory in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby.

CHESTER, W.Va. – Departing rebounded off his sixth-place finish in the Preakness to dominate his eight opponents Saturday in the West Virginia Derby in the 44th running of the Grade 2, $750,000 race at Mountaineer Park by 8 1/4 lengths.

With Robby Albarado aboard, Departing launched a sustained bid while seven wide down the backstretch of the 1 1/8-mile race before surging past Overanalyze and front-running Ruler of Love on the far turn to post the largest margin of victory in the West Virginia Derby since Stellar Brush won by nine lengths in 1999.

Departing, bred and owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, returned $4.80 as favorite after finishing in 1:51.47. Ruler of Love was second, another 3 1/4 lengths before Overanalyze, the 2-1 second choice.

“How about that?” said an elated Albarado, who got the mount when regular jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. was committed to ride favored Fort Larned in the Whitney at Saratoga. “I just kept him out of trouble and he proved much the best.”

Trainer Al Stall Jr. set his sights on the West Virginia Derby shortly after the gelding finished 10 lengths behind the victorious Oxbow in the May 18 Preakness.

“You’ve got to love when a plan comes together like this one,” said Stall. “It doesn’t always happen like this, so it’s nice.”

Departing was seventh in the early going while Albarado got him into a smooth rhythm while keeping him free of traffic.

“I just let him gather himself and he did the rest,” he said. “He was really impressive.”

Stall said he will consider one of three derbies – the Pennsylvania at Parx, the Super at Louisiana Downs, or the Indiana at Indiana Downs – as a next start for Departing, who earned $451,500 and now has won 5 of 7 starts for a total of $1,079,500.

Jockey Calvin Borel, who put Ruler of Love, a 13-1 shot, on the early lead through splits of 23.45, 47.37, and 1:11.72, said he had no complaints.

“My horse ran real big I thought,” he said. “Al’s horse was just too much.”

Overanalyze, as a Grade 1 winner, was eligible for a $150,000 bonus if he won, but he had no response after Departing loomed to his outside leaving the three-eighths pole.

“I had a good trip and we got outrun on the far turn,” said his jockey, Rosie Napravnik.

Betweenhereandcool, the 3-1 third choice, finished another 2 1/4 lengths back in fourth and was followed by Shaler, Stratocruiser, Say Ow, Ledokol, and Mi Sto Divertendo.

Seth and Dell Hancock of Claiborne and other family members were in from the central Kentucky region for the race, as was Dilschneider, their longtime partner, and others affiliated with the historic farm.

The $2 exacta (5-2) paid $50.60; the $1 trifecta (5-2-9) returned $65.50; and the 10-cent superfecta (5-2-9-4) was worth $10.48.

Mountaineer Gaming president Joe Billhimer noted in the post-race toast that Departing was “the first horse nominated, first horse entered, and first across the finish line” for the track’s premier race.

Mountaineer racing secretary Rosemary Williams said ontrack attendance was about 20,000 on a comfortable afternoon, although ontrack handle was just $249,734, or barely more than a $10 per capita. Mountaineer includes visitors to their nearby casino property in that figure. All-sources handle for the nine-race, all-stakes card was $2,467,449.