07/31/2014 10:41AM

West Virginia Derby's top trio hard to separate

Barbara D. Livingston
California shipper Candy Boy figures to launch his bid from off the pace in the West Virginia Derby.

The Grade 2 West Virginia Derby, the highlight of the Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino season, offers an interesting three-way matchup of Grade 2 winners: Candy Boy, Tapiture, and Vicar’s in Trouble.

The $750,000, 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby is the centerpiece of an all-stakes, nine-race card that has come up much stronger than usual. Saturday’s eight undercard stakes average more than 11 runners per race and have attracted Grade 1 Stephen Foster winner Moonshine Mullin, top sprinter Delaunay, and Regally Ready, the winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

The West Virginia Derby card will have a special 2 p.m. Eastern first post, will be televised regionally on the Fox Sports Network, and can be streamed in its entirety on DRF.com.

:: DRF Live: Get real-time updates and insights from DRF reporters and handicappers starting at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday

The West Virginia Derby is an interesting race to handicap, as the three top contenders have differing running styles. Louisiana Derby winner Vicar’s in Trouble should be on or near the lead; three-time graded stakes winner Tapiture likes to settle and make a run; and Candy Boy, the winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, is likely to come from farther back still.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 5 Tapiture. Trainer Steve Asmussen is 5 for 11 with a $3.61 ROI over the past three years in graded stakes dirt routes with horses coming off a win and a layoff of between 45 and 60 days.Click for more details. Dan Illman

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All three horses had troubled trips in the Kentucky Derby, and those running lines should be viewed accordingly.

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

The racetrack at Mountaineer appeared to be playing fairly Wednesday evening, with horses performing well on the lead but also able to rally from off the pace while removed from the rail.

West Virginia Derby, Race 8


Candy Boy (Last 3 Beyers: 97-80-92)

◗ Has been knocking heads with the best of the Southern California division since last fall. He will be escaping the shadow of the undefeated Shared Belief and Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner California Chrome, whom he has faced in four of his last five starts.

Candy Boy made two moves during his last race, the $500,000 Los Alamitos Derby, one to reach a contending position on the backstretch, then another into the stretch while attempting to stay with Shared Belief. Although beaten 4 1/4 lengths, it was a good effort.

“I think the race at Los Al may have been his best,” trainer John Sadler said. “And I think Shared Belief is heads above everyone else.”

◗ The 1 1/8 miles of the West Virginia Derby works to Candy Boy’s advantage.

“My horse has a lot of stamina,” Sadler said.

Candy Boy arrived at Mountaineer on Wednesday. He was flown from California to Louisville, Ky., and then vanned to Chester, W.Va., about a 370-mile trip. Corey Nakatani will ride.

Tapiture (Last 3 Beyers: 92-70-90)

◗ Got back on the beam with a two-length win in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs last out. Trainer Steve Asmussen said the key to Tapiture is giving him enough time to recover between races. Tapiture had six weeks between the Derby and the Winn and comes into this race off a seven-week break.

◗ Look for jockey Rosie Napravnik to take a hold of Tapiture early and then go after the leaders on the far turn. His versatility gives him a tactical advantage over Candy Boy.

Vicar’s in Trouble (Last 3 Beyers: 81-40-97)

◗ Won the Louisiana Derby on the lead and can be expected to set or stalk the pace here. Vicar’s in Trouble weakened to finish third in his last race, the Grade 3 Iowa Derby, but should give a better account of himself Saturday. He came into the Iowa Derby off an eight-week break, and the Prairie Meadows track was extremely sloppy that night.

“I think his performance in the Iowa Derby was due more to the track than the layoff,” trainer Mike Maker said. “I think he has more to give than we saw in Iowa.”

For Goodness Sake (Last 3 Beyers: 92-85-61)

◗ A $50,000 claim out of a maiden race at Gulfstream Park in February by trainer Mike Tomlinson, For Goodness Sake’s last two races have been freaky good. He won a Churchill maiden race by 10 1/4 lengths two starts back and then trounced allowance rivals by 6 3/4 lengths in a front-running score last time out. He was, however, able to get away with relatively soft fractions in that race.

Divine View and Classic Giacnroll enter off runner-up efforts in second-level optional-claiming races.

◗ The maiden Key for Success and Only I Know, who has lost four straight Mountaineer allowance races, appear overmatched.

◗ Gold Appointment, who shipped in from Louisiana for the race, was scratched Tuesday due to a medication issue. He is entered in the Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs on Saturday.