07/30/2008 11:00PM

Zanjero, Magna Graduate in for Asmussen


Zanjero, returning to Mountaineer Racetrack for the first time since winning last year's West Virginia Derby, and Magna Graduate, who came close to winning Grade 1 and Grade 2 stakes last season, provide a potent one-two punch for trainer Steve Asmussen in Saturday's West Virginia Governor's Stakes.

The $125,000 Governor's (race 7), which will be contested at 1 1/16 miles, tops eight supporting stakes on a nine-race card highlighted by the West Virginia Derby. The card begins at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Zanjero snapped a six-race losing streak when he outfought Bwana Bull by a nose in the 2007 West Virginia Derby. He comes into Saturday's race 0 for 3 in 2008, including a pair of seconds in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap and the Grade 3 Texas Mile.

Under the allowance conditions of the Governor's, Zanjero gets in light at 109 pounds - 10 fewer than he carried last time out in the Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows and 15 fewer than he carried the last time he won, in last October's Grade 2 Indiana Derby.

His jockey, Shaun Bridgmohan, regularly tacks 113 pounds, however, making it likely Zanjero will have to carry at least four pounds of extra weight.

Magna Graduate, formerly trained by Todd Pletcher, will be making his first start for Asmussen. Last year, he missed by a head in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs and lost by a half-length in the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup. He's winless in four starts this year, but did show enough spark to earn a 101 Beyer Speed Figure two starts ago in the Grade 3 Excelsior Handicap at Aqueduct.

The 9-year-old M B Sea returns to defend his title in the Governor's after romping by more than seven lengths a year ago as the 8-5 favorite. Age may be finally catching up to him, however, as he has failed to exceed 84 on the Beyer scale in his only two starts this season.

Canadian shipper Alezzandro is a threat to steal the race breaking from post 2. Although 7 of his 9 starts have come on Polytrack, Alezzandro wired last year's $500,000 Prince of Wales, a

1 3/16-mile race restricted to Canadian-breds, in his lone race on dirt.

* Trainer Todd Beattie dropped a surprise into the entry box for the $110,000 Harvey Arneault Memorial Stakes (race 6) when he submitted the name of his Grade 1-winning sprinter Fabulous Strike.

Just a week earlier, the 5-year-old Fabulous Strike had to be scratched from the Grade 2 Vanderbilt at Saratoga after he tore off a piece of the bottom of his left front foot.

If Fabulous Strike isn't good to go, Beattie has a backup in Are You Serious, a 6-year-old who began this season running for a $35,000 tag and most recently won a high-priced optional claimer at Delaware Park with a 103 Beyer.

* A.P. Xcellent, second by a nose in last year's Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on Cushion Track but only 1 for 8 on turf, faces Jungle Fighter, a dominant winner of the one-mile Independence Day, and defending champion Buckeye Buddy in the $85,000 West Virginia Speaker's Cup (race 9) at a mile and 70 yards on grass.

* Si Si Mon Amie, coming off a career-best performance in last month's Firecracker at Mountaineer, faces the Asmussen-trained graded-stakes-placed New Edition in the $85,000 West Virginia Senate President's (race 5), a mile and 70-yard turf race for fillies and mares. New Edition was good enough to finish second in the Virginia Oaks and the Grade 2 Lake Placid last year, but is 0 for 3 in 2008, including two off-the-board finishes against Grade 3 company.

Si Si Mon Amie and her coupled entrymate Lemonlime were both cross-entered in Saturday's $100,000 Lady Canterbury in Minnesota.

* Bettin on M J, 6 for 7 in ultra-short sprints, clashes with Lacewell, runner-up in the $200,000 Charles Town Dash, and multiple stakes winner Bernie Blue, who is 11 for 23 lifetime at Mountaineer, in the $85,000 West Virginia Chairman's Cup (race 2) at

4 1/2 furlongs.

* Thor's Daughter and Adhrhythm, both stakes winners locally earlier this season, and Pretty Jenny, a winner of two minor sprint stakes in the Midwest last fall, are the prime contenders in the $85,000 West Virginia Secretary of State (race 3), a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares.

* Screen Your Friend, the 18-1 upset winner of the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs, will be a far shorter price in the $85,000 Mountaineer Juvenile (race 1) at six furlongs.

* Corlett, beaten less than three lengths despite being blocked in the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill Downs, and the Asmussen-trained Shining Moment, winner of the Prairie Gold Lassie, head a group of six 2-year-old fillies in the $85,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies (race 4) at six furlongs.