Updated on 09/16/2011 7:59AM

Wiseman's Ferry the one to catch


There are plenty of juicy spots for 3-year-old males who don't rank among the leaders of their division, and one such race is Saturday's $600,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Race Track.

The rich pot has lured seven shippers, plus two local horses, to Mountaineer, which is in the small town of Chester, W. Va., for the 30th running of the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby.

Wiseman's Ferry is the likely favorite of the 1 1/8-mile race.

Wiseman's Ferry won the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby and was a narrowly beaten second in the Grade 2 Ohio Derby behind Magic Weisner, who came back to finish second in the Haskell. Between those starts, Wiseman's Ferry's trainer Niall O'Callaghan placed the Hennessy colt in an ambitious spot in the Belmont Stakes and the colt was beaten 50 1/4 lengths.

O'Callaghan, who saddled Frazee's Folly to a sixth-place finish in the 2000 West Virginia Derby, said one of the reasons he is keen on bringing Wiseman's Ferry to Mountaineer is because he thinks the horse's front-running style is a good fit with the racing surface.

"Speed seems to be the factor there," O'Callaghan said. "Last year, Western Pride won the race on the lead all the way. I think [Wiseman's Ferry] is the right horse for the job. He seems to like hard, fast tracks."

Jorge Chavez, aboard Wiseman's Ferry in each of his starts this year, has the mount. Wiseman's Ferry drew post 3.

O'Callaghan said it is a concern that Wiseman's Ferry, who carries high weight of 122 pounds under the allow-ance conditions of the race, will concede up to 11 pounds to some of his rivals.

Pass Rush, the Iowa Derby runner-up, is one of the horses who gets in light at 111 pounds and looks like a legitimate threat. Pass Rush, who is trained by Pat Byrne, is coming off a second in Arlington Park's Round Table, won by the controlling speed, Cowboy Stuff. Last year, the Round Table played a key role in the outcome of the West Virginia Derby after Western Pride finished second in the race.

Pass Rush's rider, Pat Day, is nearing a milestone as he bids to become racing's all-time money leading rider. At the start of Friday's card at Saratoga, Day was $114,891 shy of the $264,351,678 record, owned by the retired Chris McCarron.

The Judge Sez Who, who would be aided by a lively pace, finished third in the Ohio Derby, 1 1/2 lengths behind Wiseman's Ferry. Hall of Fame rider Jerry Bailey has the mount.

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