Updated on 09/15/2011 12:48PM

Western Pride steals West Va. Derby


CHESTER, WV. - Speed ruled at Mountaineer Park on Saturday, on the clock and on the track. Three track records were established, including one in the $500,000 West Virginia Derby when 21-1 longshot Western Pride scored a wire-to-wire victory.

Capitalizing on a pronounced speed bias, local rider Dana Whitney hustled Western Pride to the lead and was never challenged by favorites Thunder Blitz and Outofthebox. He opened up a seven-length cushion early with splits of 23.46 seconds, :46.49, and 1:11.04 - then maintained a 2 1/2-length cushion through the stretch over Saratoga Games and Thunder Blitz.

Western Pride ($45.60) raced 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:47.20, breaking Park Guard's mark of 1:47.40, which was set in winning the West Virginia Derby by five lengths in 1974.

Whitney attributed the win in part to a home-track edge. Western Pride, second in the Round Table Stakes at Arlington last month, had won an entry-level allowance at Mountaineer in February. And Whitney, being one of the leading local riders, felt he knew the track's history of carrying speed more so than out-of-town riders such as Gary Stevens, Jerry Bailey and Pat Day - whom rode the race favorites.

"They made a mistake by letting me get away that easily," he said. "They didn't know the track. That's not their fault. That's where I had the advantage."

Saratoga Games chased the winner from start to finish and gamely held off favored Thunder Blitz for second. The latter was ridden by Stevens, who picked up the mount after Jorge Chavez was injured at Saratoga Friday.

The order of finish was completed by X Country, Buckle Down Ben, Marciano, Outofthebox, Niner's Echo and Sunshine Jack.

Western Pride, a 3-year-old son of Way West trained by Richard Estvanko, earned the largest payoff of his career, winning $300,000 for owner Theresa McArthur. He has now won five of 14 starts and $393,679.

His next start could come next in the Sept. 29 Ohio Derby, Estvanko said.

* The on-track crowd of 18,529 witnessed two other track records. Fina Dur ($5.80) lowered his own track mark for four and a half furlongs by winning the West Virginia Legislature Chairman's Cup in :50.33, and Hustler ($50.20) set a new record for six furlongs with an easy win in the Harvey Arneault Memorial Handicap in 1:07.81.

Three other stakes were contested on the evening card. Elaine's Booboo ($14.20) won the West Virginia Senate President's Cup; Jake The Flake ($5.20) took the West Virginia House Of Delegates Speaker's Cup; and Winning Connection ($6.60) won the West Virginia Governor's Handicap.

Total handle was over $1.6 million, the highest in Mountaineer Park history.