08/01/2013 1:14PM

West Virginia Derby: Overanalyze part of Pletcher's bottomless pit of talent

Barbara D. Livingston
Overanalyze will try to give Todd Pletcher his third major stakes win for 3-year-olds since last weekend when he runs as the favorite in the West Virginia Derby.

CHESTER, W.Va. – There’s gold in these here hills, if only you run fast enough to get it. The embarrassment of 3-year-old riches in the Todd Pletcher stable could be further highlighted Saturday in the mountains of West Virginia, where yet another Pletcher runner, Overanalyze, could earn a tidy bundle by capturing the signature race at Mountaineer Racetrack, the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby.

The West Virginia Derby purse is $750,000, with at least $451,000 of that going to the winner. In addition, Overanalyze, as the lone Grade 1 winner in the field, would earn an additional $150,000 bonus for owner Mike Repole.

But that’s not all. As the 7-5 program favorite in a field of nine, Overanalyze can add to the considerable Pletcher haul from last weekend, when Palace Malice won the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga and Verrazano captured the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth Park, giving the 46-year-old trainer the two probable favorites for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Pletcher said this week from Saratoga that a big effort from Overanalyze could yield a berth in the Aug. 24 Travers, although “that’d be something for Mike Repole to decide. Anything is possible, I guess.”

Neither Repole nor Pletcher will be here Saturday to watch when Rosie Napravnik guides Overanalyze away from the outside post in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby, which will be televised live on a one-hour (5-6 p.m. Eastern) show on Fox Sports Network affiliates. Post time for the race is 5:45. Stable assistant Cesar Estevez will be on hand to saddle Overanalyze, whose arrival here from Saratoga was scheduled for Friday.

Mountaineer has pegged co-second choices on its morning line in Betweenhereandcool (post 4, Ricardo Santana Jr.) and Departing (post 5, Robby Albarado), while the other six horses are listed at double-digit odds, some as high as 50-1.

Overanalyze won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in April before becoming one of five Pletcher starters in the Kentucky Derby. Overanalyze finished 11th in the Churchill Downs mud, but only after encountering what Pletcher called “sneaky trouble.” The official chart for the race says the colt “altered course,” but Pletcher, in slight exaggeration, recalled that “around the three-eighths pole, he went from like sixth to 18th.”

In his only subsequent start, Overanalyze was a no-threat seventh in the Belmont Stakes, won by Palace Malice, but “he never got into a position where he could get into a great rhythm,” said Pletcher.

“He didn’t embarrass himself that day, and neither race was as bad as it looks on paper. But having said all that, yes, we would really like him to show major improvement there in West Virginia. He is getting what you’d say is class relief. It’d be nice to see him show what he’s capable of doing.”

Besides Napravnik riding him for the first time – the jockey initially committed this day to ride Power Broker here, before Bob Baffert decided instead to run the colt in the Haskell – Overanalyze also will be equipped with blinkers for the first time Saturday.

“He worked well in them [Sunday at Saratoga] and seemed to get his attention a little bit,” said Pletcher.

The allowance conditions of the West Virginia Derby dictate that Overanalyze carry high weight of 124 pounds, while the others tote 116 to 120.

Departing, as winner of the Illinois Derby, clearly looks like the top threat to Overanalyze, while Betweenhereandcool also would not qualify as a major surprise. Steve Asmussen, trainer of Betweenhereandcool, has won 4 of the last 8 runnings of the race, including last year with Macho Macho.

One of the outsiders is a homebred named Say Ow (post 3, Saul Arias), whose owner, Jeffrey DeHaven of The Premae Company LLC, sent him to local trainer Chuck Kieser on July 13, a couple of weeks after the gelding won his second straight race over the synthetic surface at Betfair Hollywood Park when still under the care of Julio Canani.

“I’ve always wanted an opportunity like this,” said Kieser, 59, a former jockey who trains eight horses here in Barn J and lives right across the Ohio River in Rogers, Ohio.

Assuming he can hold his form from California, where he earned Beyer Speed Figures of 97 and 95, Say Ow would have to be considered the top long-priced threat in the group. Rounding out the field are Shaler, Ruler of Love, Mi Sto Divertendo, Ledokol, and Stratocruiser.

This will be the 44th running of the West Virginia Derby, which goes as the eighth of nine races on a terrific all-stakes program worth $1.65 million, a sum even higher than the $1.53 million being paid out Saturday at Saratoga. First post is 2 p.m. Racing normally is conducted in the evenings here except for this biggest day of the meet.

The weather forecast for Saturday is a good one, with high temperatures in the mid-70s and only an outside chance of rain. There is no admission charge at Mountaineer, which has a casino.