08/04/2007 12:00AM

Zanjero finally wins a big one


More than eight months of frustration ended for the connections of Zanjero on Saturday after the multiple graded stakes-placed 3-year-old finally won a big one, outgaming 20-1 longshot Bwana Bull to win Mountaineer Park's $750,000 West Virginia Derby by a nose.

Zanjero, a Kentucky-bred son of Cherokee Run, was stakes-placed in five graded races dating back to his second-place finish behind Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes in his 2-year-old finale.

As a 3-year-old, Zanjero had finished third, beaten a head in the Grade 1 Blue Grass, second beaten a neck in the Grade 3 Northern Dancer, third in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, and third in the Grade 3 Risen Star. He was also a distant 12th in the Kentucky Derby.

Zanjero was trapped four wide during the early stages of the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby while rating less than four lengths off the early pace of 85-1 Norjac. Zanjero rallied in company and just inside Bwana Bull to challenge for the lead midway around the turn, angled down to the rail for the stretch run, and proved best after an extended drive.

Bwana Bull, who gained a short advantage outside the winner on the final turn, continued gamely through the stretch and just missed. It was another six lengths farther back to Moyer's Pond, who outlasted Sam P. for third.

Delightful Kiss, the 9-5 favorite in a scratched-reduced field of eight

3-year-olds, rallied five wide to join the leaders briefly turning for home, but flattened out and finish a tiring fifth.

Zanjero's victory was the third on the day for the team of jockey Shaun Bridgmohan and trainer Steve Asmussen. Zanjero is owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds.

Zanjero covered the distance in 1:53.04 over a fast track and paid $8.