08/04/2012 6:05PM

West Virginia Derby: Macho Macho gives Asmussen fourth West Virginia Derby; Hansen finishes fourth

Coady Photography
Macho Macho, under Corey Nakatani, gives trainer Steve Asmussen his fourth West Virginia Derby victory.

CHESTER, W.Va. – Macho Macho gave trainer Steve Asmussen a record fourth victory in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby when taking full advantage of a great trip to post a mild upset Saturday in the 43rd running of the Mountaineer Park showcase.

Hansen, the 3-5 favorite who dominated pre-race speculation for the Grade 2 event with his tail painted blue and vaunted reputation as a speedy 2-year-old champion, took sustained pressure from longshot Hero of Order from the start and was never able to shake clear. He finished fourth after being passed inside the eighth pole not only by Macho Macho, who got first jump, but by Bourbon Courage and Called to Serve, the eventual second- and third-place finishers.

With Corey Nakatani aboard, Macho Macho settled into a very comfortable trip alone in third, a few lengths behind those dueling leaders.

“I found myself in the catbird’s spot, biding my time,” said Nakatani. “It worked out great.”

Macho Macho, a gray colt owned by Jerry Durant, returned $11.40 as second choice after finishing the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:49.98 over a fast track. Bourbon Courage was a half-length behind the winner, with Called to Serve (12-1) another half-length behind him. Hansen, ridden by Mike Smith, was another 1 1/4 lengths back in the field of nine 3-year-olds.

“We got pressured all the way,” said Smith. “I guess it just wasn’t his day.”

Asmussen watched the race from Saratoga, instead sending assistant Darren Fleming in his place. Prior West Virginia wins for Asmussen came with Real Dandy (2005), Zanjero (2007), and Soul Warrior (2009).

Much of the show pool was wagered on Hansen, leading to respective show payoffs of $11, $23.40, and $15 on the top three finishers. In the immediate race aftermath, there were no reports of any gamblers jumping off the nearby East Liverpool Bridge.

Macho Macho, a Kentucky-bred by Macho Uno, was coming off a second-place finish in the July 8 Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park. The win was his third in seven overall starts and his first in a stakes. He earned $451,500, more than quadrupling his bankroll to $546,214.

“This colt is really coming around, and honestly, we didn’t know he would be this good,” said Fleming, adding the colt was to van back to Asmussen at Saratoga.

On a hot, humid afternoon, Hansen went in fractions of 24.33, 47.33 and 1:11.23 when racing outside of Hero of Order, a 37-1 shot famous for winning the Louisiana Derby fourth months ago at 109-1. That duel took a clear toll, as Macho Macho came calling on the outside, Bourbon Courage on the rail, and Called to Serve farthest outside.

“Corey’s horse just had a little more,” said Deshawn Parker, the standout local jockey who rode Bourbon Courage, the 5-1 third choice. “He gave me every kick he can give me.”

Hansen was the only horse in the race eligible for a $150,000 bonus by virtue of having won a Grade 1 race, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall. The other major disappointment in the race was Le Bernardin, the Pegasus Stakes winner who finished last with no mishap at 8-1.

The $2 perfecta (4-8) paid $64.40; the $1 trifecta (4-8-6) returned $188.30; and the 10-cent superfecta (4-8-6-9) was worth $44.63.

* Smith and Mike Maker, the trainer of Hansen, got a small measure of redemption by teaming with favored Major Marvel ($7) to win the final race of the all-stakes Saturday card, the $100,000 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker’s Cup.

Major Marvel, ridden by Mike Smith, finished the mile and 70-yard distance in 1:37.21 over a firm course, setting a stakes mark while also lowering the turf course mark set just a few hours earlier by Frontside in the President’s Cup.

Tonto Fontenot was second at 6-1, while Sneakin Thru was third at 55-1 in a field of 11 older horses.