July 29, 2015
The Grade II WV Derby is one of the most interesting races at HRP, simply based on its history, and when it started as a free race way back in 2003, it attracted the likes of Romeo, who would go on to win the Grade I BC Sprint and numerous other Graded Stakes events. It did get a decent number of good horses from both free and pay stables but it was not until 2012, when the decision was made to emulate the real-life $750.000 purse, that it attracted the attention of the big players including champion Vouvray, who beat males for the second time that season including previous Grade I winner Sector Seven and future Grade I winner Generals Road. Shadow Of A Doubt tried to duplicate that effort in 2013 but wound up near the back of the pack; still, three straight Grade I wins after that including the BC Distaff made her mark on racing history, while last year, Lettucerocku sprung the 10-1 upset from well off the pace as the culmination of a four-race winning streak.
This year, a solid field of 10 is assembled as owners space their best horses amongst this race, the Grade II Dandy and the Grade I Haskell and while the KYD winner is at MTH and the PRK winner is at SAR, it might just be a winless horse this year who takes all the attention at MNR and off the cutback in distance, might be able to chase a quicker pace and finally get up for the big score he has been waiting about all season long. But in order to win, he will have to best a very good Grade II winner earlier this year who will like not racing in the TC, and a very good Grade III winner last time out who will be coming from off the pace after breaking from the farthest outside.
1-Mazula Ruler (Three-year-old bay colt / Owner-D J C Racing Stables)
Minor stakes winner Mazula Ruler has been cautiously handled through his career by a pair of owners and since being purchased for $200.000, shows one win in the Lang at PIM and a fifth place effort against tougher at BEL in the Dwyer. That closing effort with blinkers and Lasix might have been decent enough on paper but workouts in the interim do not show a ton of improvement and he will rank as a lower choice until he proves himself against this class.
Analysis-Has not had the success against this level you would hope to see
2-Dominant Speed (Three-year-old bay colt / Owner-Rockitpad)
Grade I winner Dominant Speed is one of only four horses this year to contest all three legs of the TC and has a runner-up effort in the PRK and a third in the BEL to show for it, so on class alone, he ranks as one of the top contenders and will appreciate a return to nine-furlongs and another inside post to make things event-free. His speed ratings are some of the best in the field and he knows how to close into what should be a quicker pace so the only concern is conditioning and without a published work, one has to assume that he is fit enough to handle this class of field.
Analysis-Gets a familiar jockey and should be a contender on class alone
3-Moon Prince (Three-year-old bay gelding / Owner-Asgar)
State-bred company has been very good to Moon Prince but the move into open stakes company resulted in a dismal finish at long odds in the Grade II LA Derby and he will need to regroup and fire fresh, or face another long day at the office against this level. He has only gone a route of distance twice and once was last time out so there is room to improve; that being said, the improvement needed to hit the board is substantial and he looks to be overmatched right now, unless he can lead gate-to-wire.
Analysis-No threat last time and this is similar company
4-Unsuited (Three-year-old black colt / Owner-Hawaiian Shirt Guy)
Unsuited has such potential after his win in the Grade I FL Derby but three straight losses, all in increasingly worse fashion, have put him into longshot mode and the hope is that he can rebound with at least an effort that shows some closing ability. Another change in jockey will not help his chances and as speed ratings go down, so do his opportunities to make the necessary steps forward to really contest for the victory here.
Analysis-Not the same colt he was at GP
5-Decima (Three-year-old bay colt / Owner-Mb Stables)
A multiple Grade II winner who found the TC trail a little too tough, Decima will one of the many who appreciate the move into lesser company and if he can run back to his efforts at GP and FG, he could be formidable as a closing threat to the inside speed. He was unable to make any headway from very far back in the KYD and the BEL but recent workouts have heightened his speed and he should be able to make some gains late, with a jockey who is accustomed to closing into fractions that are quite quick.
Analysis-Might finally get some speed to run at in the stretch
6-Moving Cloud (Three-year-old gray gelding / Owner-Sanny Village)
There are more than enough questions to be answered from Moving Cloud on Saturday afternoon in the WV Derby, not the least of which is his ability to handle nine-furlongs after going no further than three-quarters of a mile in any of his first six starts. He certainly knows how to win, mostly at short prices in small fields, and although he is a huge purchase and a half-brother to a stakes winner going long, there are too many potential concerns to back him as a short price.
Analysis-Enters a new test with too many question marks
7-Jack The Flipper (Three-year-old gray gelding / Owner-Running Farms)
Jack The Flipper finally turned in a decent effort for his current barn with a close second in the Grade III IA Derby and with another Derby on the line here, it is safe to say that his middle draw will see him near the front once again, hopefully through more reasonable fractions. An excellent workout over the SAR turf gives rise to the fact that he can maintain his speed but he needs to get out there and swing for the fences if he has any chance of making another run at Graded Stakes glory.
Analysis-Last race could have been a breakthrough, or a one-off
8-Valar Morghulis (Three-year-old bay colt / Owner-Gdp Inc)
Valar Morghulis faced older rivals in the Grade III Dominion Day Stakes at WO last time out and closed well to be third behind the vastly superior Nile Warrior and given the right scenario, the cutback to nine-furlongs might be right up his alley. He was able to win going this distance at BEL in a quick final time the start before that, and comes in off two sharp workouts at PRX so as a price play taking on some of the big boys, he could be value and one that will looking to close big time into sharp splits.
Analysis-Lots of like off his last effort
9-Royal Prodigy (Three-year-old bay gelding / Owner-Mb Stables)
If you have an inkling that Valar Morghulis will do well in the WV Derby, you have to like Royal Prodigy since he only finished a neck behind him in that stakes race at WO after coming from farther behind and he does carry that extra win this season, which might make him a dangerous price play despite his lack of experience. Workouts at WO have been blazing and he comes from a barn who needs no explanation so expect him to be fit, ready and powerful from the outside with closing ability in full effect over the final furlong.
Analysis-Should love this distance and the pace it affords
10-Lincoln (Three-year-old bay gelding / Owner-Serenity Stables)
Since being purchased for $45.000 earlier this year, Lincoln has rattled off three straight wins including scores in the Sir Barton and the IA Derby and off that last effort, and its big speed rating, has to be one of the clear favourites to stalk and pounce late. There are others who will be closing from wide post positions but this gelding actually carries less weight than last time and that could play into his advantage, as a key barometer of how this field stacks up coming out of the TC and coming up from races that were below that level.
Analysis-Outside run is expected off his three-race streak
There is not a lot of speed signed on for the Grade III WV Derby and that will make for an interesting showdown in the final two-furlongs but Dominant Speed comes out of the best races and that will make him my choice, be a slight margin, in this evenly matched field. Lincoln rides a big winning streak into MNR from the outside post so look for him to close well, and do not discount both Valar Morghulis and Royal Prodigy, who exit that key race at WO and should appreciate being in against straight three-year-olds once again.
Win-Dominant Speed (3/1)
Show-Valar Morghulis (4/1)
Triple T Racing 🙂
Categories: Grade III