February 20, 2024

Mr. Money rolls to fourth straight in West Virginia Derby

Mr. Money and jockey Gabriel Saez easily score in the West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer Park on August 3, 2019 (c) Coady Photography/Mountaineer Park

Allied Racing Stable’s Mr. Money is primed for a class hike after routing Grade 3 opponents for the fourth straight time in Saturday’s $500,000 West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer. Trained by Bret Calhoun and ridden by Gabriel Saez, the 1-2 favorite left them standing in what’s become his trademark stalk-and-pounce style.

Mr. Money will face stiffer tests of class, likely in the September 21 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx, but at least he answered something of a distance question here. The Goldencents colt had thrived on the cutback to one turn in the Pat Day Mile (G3), beginning his winning sequence that continued through the Matt Winn (G3) and Indiana Derby (G3) over 1 1/16 miles. Although he wasn’t exactly stopping in those conquests, he confirmed his effectiveness at 1 1/8 miles in West Virginia, albeit through a soft pace in 1:50.28.

The tractable Mr. Money was content to let Plus Que Parfait have the lead. Perhaps not the most obvious candidate to set the pace, Plus Que Parfait posted fractions of :24.42 and :49.10 on the fast track. Mr. Money, perched on the leader’s flank, put his head in front at the six-furlong mark in 1:12.99 while still in hand. Saez turned him loose entering the stretch, and the favorite drew six lengths clear.

“Bret has done a great job,” said Allied Racing’s Chester Thomas, “and from what I could see Gabe did a wonderful job getting him to relax. I knew he was sitting on a lot of horse when he let him loose. What we saw on paper became reality.”

Saez credited the trainer, while Calhoun recognized Thomas’ role in letting him map out the plan.

“(Calhoun) has done a tremendous job with him, and my job was to find the winner’s circle,” Saez said. “On the final turn I asked him to get it done, and here we are. Good horses make you look good.”

“He’s a very good horse,” Calhoun said, “and Chester has allowed me to manage him in a good way to keep his confidence level up.”

The 35-1 Chess Chief, briefly on hold behind horses, didn’t have to wait long for a gap and kept on to collar Plus Que Parfait for second. Another 4 1/2 lengths astern in fourth came Top Line Growth. Math Wizard, the 9-2 second choice, never got involved in sixth of nine. That was some way below the form from Indiana Grand, where Math Wizard was third, beaten four lengths by Mr. Money.

Grumps Little Tots was a notable scratch. Lining up instead in a Saratoga allowance Saturday, the Jason Servis pupil got a confidence boost ahead of a potential return to stakes company.

Mr. Money doesn’t need any more confidence-building. Now a millionaire with a bankroll worth $1,074,220 from a 10-5-2-0 line, he’s racked up four in a row, by more than 20 lengths combined. Mr. Money ran creditably in his only prior Grade 1 attempt, finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). A pair of subpar efforts in Kentucky Derby (G1) points races at Fair Grounds, the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2), caused him to lower his sights for a while, but he’s looking for a challenge now.

“It’s a good possibility,” Calhoun said of the Pennsylvania Derby. “That’s definitely where we are hoping to be.”

“Hopefully there are bigger and better things for us,” Thomas said.

Bred by Spruce Lane Farm in Kentucky, Mr. Money sold for $130,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. His dam, the winning Tiznow mare Plenty O’Toole, is a three-quarter sister to 2009 Dubai World Cup (G1) star and $5.1 million-earner Well Armed.

Silver Dust and jockey Jack Gilligan win the West Virginia Governor’s Stakes (G3) at Mountaineer Park on August 3, 2019 (c) Coady Photography/Mountaineer Park

Calhoun swept both graded events on the stakes-laden card, with Silver Dust wearing down Mexican star and 3-1 favorite Kukulkan in the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Cup S. (G3). Tom Durant’s colorbearer stalked in third as Exclamation Point showed the way. The attending Kukulkan put him away, but could not hold off the persistent Silver Dust in deep stretch. Getting up by a half-length for Jack Gilligan, the 7-2 choice clocked 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.85. Then he withstood a steward’s inquiry and a claim of foul from Kukulkan’s jockey, Corey Lanerie, to keep the trophy.

“I thought it went very well,” Calhoun said. “He was very professional like Jack (Gilligan) said. He can be a real handful—in the paddock and around the (starting) gate, but he did everything right today. There have been times he has hung (in the stretch), but today he went gamely to the wire.”

Silver Dust’s resume now reads 23-5-6-2, $594,777. At his peak this year as a five-year-old, he’s landed the Mineshaft (G3) at Fair Grounds as well as placing second in the New Orleans H. (G2), Louisiana H., and the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial last out.

The Tapit gelding was bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto Corp. Out of the Grade 3-placed stakes winner Filare l’Oro, by Hard Spun, the gray brought $270,000 at Keeneland September but commanded $510,000 as an OBS March two-year-old.