Papo picks the West Virginia Derby

westvirginiaderbyBy Papo Morales, AmWager

Race 8 Grade 2 West Virginia Derby 1 1/8th Miles

A field of 11 three-year-old’s looking to pick up a Derby win by crossing the wire first in Mountaineer’s biggest race, the West Virginia Derby.

Morning line favoritism falls on Cupid (3-1), for trainer Bob Baffert, who is coming into the race off an outstanding win in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby. In that race, Cupid showed his mettle by setting a fast pace and then turning back all challengers down the stretch.

That win straightened his arrow as he had lost two straight races coming into the Indiana Derby, subpar performances that can be attributed to a minor throat surgery. Breaking from post one, I would expect Cupid to be pressing or setting the pace once again. While I love his determination, this may be the race to play against him.

He will be a short price on the tote board and there is other speed signed on in this race including No Distortion, who is breaking from post 2. Cupid will have to run a sixteenth of a mile farther and if he sets blazing fractions early, that may cost him at the finish line. I won’t toss him completely because of his grit, but he will be a “B” on my multi-race tickets and I will try to get him out of the top spot in my vertical wagers.

Another “B” horse for me in this race is Forevamo (8-1) for trainer Al Stall. The son of Uncle Mo should be sitting a mid-pack position early in the race and attempt to get the first run on the closers. He won an optional claimer at Churchill in his last start. While the class of that race is questionable, he did get a confidence-boosting win.

Two races back he ran a very good second in the Pat Day Mile and it is also worth noting that he finished second in the Grade 2 Risen Star to Gun Runner. He looks to have been pointed to this race and Stall knows what type of horse to bring to Mountaineer, as he won this race with Departing back in 2013. Forevamo has finished in the exacta in six of nine career starts and if he takes another step forward, can be right there at the wire.

Economic Model (4-1) (now scratched) is very interesting in this race and will be an “A” on my tickets. Trained by Chad Brown, the Flatter colt has had a stellar career thus far, finishing in the exacta in five of six lifetime starts. In his last race he finished second in the Grade 3 Dwyer at Belmont Park.

While he was not getting to the winner, Fish Trap Road, on that day I believe he was a bit too close to the early pace. If he can sit two lengths or so off the heat up front, his win chances should be enhanced. Brown also adds blinkers in this race, an angle that results in a 23% win rate for this sharp trainer.

As for my other “A” horse I’m going back to my good friend Suddenbreakingnews (9-2). Some may say I have a love affair with him, as I have supported him at the windows each time he runs. Yes, he cost me money in the Belmont, but if you toss that race, then you have a Mineshaft ridgling that has completed the exacta in seven of 10 career starts.

Suddenbreakingnews is a closer and needs a lot of pace up front to run into. With Cupid, No Distortion, and Pinson winging it on the front end, I am hoping Suddenbreakingnews gets the hot pace that suits his closing style. The outside post in this race should not hinder his cause as he will likely drop in and be racing at the back of the field through the early stages of the race.

Down the backstretch, it is going to be up to Luis Quinonez to put him in a position to avoid traffic so that when they begin their turn for home, he can unleash his closing kick. I don’t bet with my heart which is why I am using several in this race, however nothing will put a bigger smile on my face than seeing the orange and white diamond silks crossing the finish line first.

NOTE: With the scratch of Economic Model, Forevamo because Papo’s other “A” horse


For more info on the WV Derby field, click here.

The Down the Stretch Radio Show – Papo and Don Knobel will cover all the stakes races at Saratoga along with the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer. For more info, click here

Make sure to follow Papo on Twitter @Papocore1. He will be tweeting thoughts on Mountaineer’s other stakes races, as well as the big races at Saratoga.

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