12/15/2003 12:00AM

West Virginia takes big drop to statebreds


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - After finishing a well-beaten third in the Grade 2 Remsen on Nov. 29, West Virginia finds a more likely spot to earn the second stakes win of his career in Wednesday's $75,000-added Damon Runyon at Aqueduct.

The Damon Runyon was scheduled for Sunday but was postponed that morning when track officials decided to cancel the program because of a snowstorm.

West Virginia will be favored among 10 New York-bred 2-year-olds entered in the 1 1/16-mile Damon Runyon.

West Virginia and Rb's Glitter are the only stakes winners in the field.

West Virginia won his second start, a statebred maiden race at Belmont Park on Oct. 18. He controlled the pace in that mile race and powered away to an 11 1/2-length win. West Virginia cut back to six furlongs in a division of the New York Stallion Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 9 and won by two lengths.

Twenty days after the Stallion Stakes, West Virginia ran in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen and finished third after setting the pace. He was beaten 14 1/2 lengths by the winner, Read the Footnotes.

Had the Damon Runyon been run Sunday, it would have been West Virginia's third race in 36 days. The delay gives him an extra three days' rest, which could be viewed as bonus

Seth Benzel, an assistant to West Virginia's trainer, Todd Pletcher, said the colt gave a good account of himself in the Remsen, his first start around two turns.

"Running back [Sunday] in a statebred race is a good angle," Benzel said. "He's definitely a horse with a prominent stride, and he covers a lot of ground efficiently. He's very relaxed in doing that, and that'll help him stretching out."

Shaun Bridgmohan rides West Virginia who has early speed but a tough post, 9, for the short run into the first turn.

None of the horses in the Damon Runyon have won a dirt race around two turns and most have only sprint experience.

Speedjama stalked the pace and was up in time to win a six-furlong maiden race by a half-length in his last start. Speedjama should appreciate the distance increase and is in sharp form, as evidenced by a bullet five-furlong work in 1:00.47 last Tuesday at Belmont. He adds blinkers for the race and drew the outside post.

An interesting horse is Gentleman Player, who faces New York-breds for the first time after two starts in California, including a six-length win in a maiden claiming race.

Gates Avenue looked good winning a seven-furlong maiden race on Nov. 27 for trainer Dave Donk, who also entered Kiss an Optimist.