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West Virginia Derby: Departing leaves rivals far behind
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.
This was a visually impressive win against a weak group and a decent time, but I think Al Stall is very smart to avoid the best of the Division with Departing. He's a serious player on the Grade 2 and 3 circuit though and he should make his owner's a nice barrel of money winning those races. Note: Is it time to change Overanalyze's name to "Overrated"? This is a horse with a nice pedigree who seemed like he could be a player in the Division and now he can't even get close to 2nd place in the West Virginia Derby against one of the weakest fields you'll see all year. Other than Departing, I hadn't even heard of any of the other runners. Did any of them even show (or even run) in any of the Derby Preps this year?
I've been going to Mountaineer and the West Virgininia Derby for years. It's my only chance to see Stakes races within an hour and 1/2 drive. Supporting Mountaineer as they try and make changes to the local trainer/owner culture is better than demonizing them out of business. Because if they do close, all of those same dirty players will move 45 northeast to Austintown and operate there. If you had a terrible time don't go back.
I was there too - that is how I know it is a terrible track! I do live in this area and generally they are lucky to have 100 people there on race night. People don't go there because they don't treat horses right. They do not represent anything that is good in horse racing. Did you not see the story about the trainer and the horse that just died there? Not to mention letting jockeys race there that have been banned at other tracks. Mountaineer represents all that is wrong with racing! Night school did nothing there that day but stand in a tent. The new track in Austintown will put them out of business!!!
I was on hand for the whole card. What a great day of racing! If Mountaineer is a '"terrible" track, it is because for most of the year it is barely keeping it's head above water due to lack of support. You have a complete lack of interest in (knowledge of) horse racing in the region. Thanks to the Night School team for educating the public about betting horses.What Night School was doing needs to happen weekly at Mountaineer. Thanks to Jeremy Plonk, Caton Braydar, and the whole Night School Team!!
I was on hand. What a perfect day of racing. Thanks to the Night School team for educating the public about racing. If this track is "terrible" it's because it is barely holding it's head above water most of the year. What night school did needs to be done daily at Mountaineer. If the track had public support it could and would change for the better.
Mountaineer is a terrible track - even on their biggest day of the year. They should move the West Virginia to Charlestown as Mountaineer has lost most of their good races anyhow.
Travers is gonna be stacked.
Al Stall is one of the smarter trainers in the present era, he knows very well where to place his horses in any race, either stake or claiming races, not many trainers knows when is time to back off and avoid the big ones with a nice horse in your hands or time to drop a horse in the right claim tag.
Isn't it time to ponder that we might have had an outstanding crop of 3 year old horses in the triple crown this year?
Robbie win these kind of races and still can't get any respect up at Saratoga..I took a look at his mounts, 1 or 2 a day..this guy should be getting at least 5 or 6 rides a day