Baffert Ships Once On Whiskey for West Virginia Derby
It’s not every day that trainer runs a horse at Mountaineer, but then again, it’s not every day that the West Virginia racetrack hosts a graded stakes race worth $500,000.Thus, it’s not too surprising that Baffert will be in action on August 4th when Mountaineer hosts the $500,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. III), a nine-furlong race for three-year-olds that Baffert has won three times in the past with Concord Point (2010), Prayer for Relief (2011), and Cupid (2016).
The Hall of Fame trainer will be represented on Saturday by #5 Once On Whiskey, a rapidly-progressing son of Bodemeister. Once On Whiskey didn’t debut until February, when he finished second in a maiden sprint at Santa Anita, but since then the colt has steadily ascended the class ranks and scored a breakthrough win in the Los Alamitos Derby (gr. III) on July 14th, unleashing a sharp late rally from off the pace to win by a head.
But although Once On Whiskey is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the West Virginia Derby, victory is far from assured. #2 Draft Pick finished second in the Los Alamitos Derby one start after romping to victory in the Affirmed Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita; the Peter Eurton-trained son of Candy Ride is another colt that has made steady progress in recent months, and it might not take much for him to turn the tables on Once On Whiskey this Saturday.
And just wait—the waters get even deeper. #9 High North, a two-time stakes winner, caught eyes while winning the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows on July 6th, rallying from just off the pace to defeat a quality field that included the lightly-raced #8 Mr Freeze and the Prairie Mile Stakes winner #1 Lionite, who will be back again in the West Virginia Derby. All three boast BRIS speed figures that suggest they could be very competitive against Once On Whiskey and Draft Pick.
#6 Rugbyman, close runner-up in the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park two starts back, brings solid form from New York into the fray, while #4 King Cause—fifth in the Affirmed and fourth in the Los Alamitos Derby—will try to close the gap that has thus far separated him from Draft Pick.
Completing the field for the West Virginia Derby are #3 Caloric, seventh in the Ohio Derby (gr. III) two starts back, and #7 Pamir, who broke his maiden by a dozen lengths going a mile at Mountaineer back in May.
The West Virginia Derby is the eighth race of the day, with a post time of 5:35 p.m. Eastern.