West Virginia Derby (G3) — Race 8 (5:35 p.m. ET)
Warrant and Mr. Wireless, who were separated by less than a length in their last meeting in the May 31 Texas Derby, are among the leading contenders for the $500,000 West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer on Saturday over 1 1/8 miles.
Contested over 1 1/16 miles in the slop, the Texas Derby saw Warrant out-finish Mr. Wireless by three parts of a length as a lukewarm favorite. Mr. Wireless was sent off at 14-1 that day, but the gap in wagering will be significantly smaller following Mr. Wireless’ interim victory in the July 7 Indiana Derby (G3), achieved by an emphatic 3 3/4 lengths.
“He faced Warrant once and finished second, but I think a couple of things could have gone differently that day,” said trainer Bret Calhoun, who won the West Virginia Derby with Mr. Money the last time the race was held in 2019.
“Everything has gone really well since his last start,” Calhoun added. “He’s improving and steadily getting better. It seems like we’re never getting to his bottom — he has a lot of stamina.”
Warrant, who has not started since the Texas Derby, was previously second to Brad Cox-trained stablemate Fulsome in the Oaklawn S. Fulsome later captured the Matt Winn (G3), but was a well-beaten third to Mr. Wireless as a 2-5 favorite in the Indiana Derby.
Bourbonic, who sprung the biggest upset in the history of the Wood Memorial (G2) when beating stablemate Dynamic One by a head at odds of 72-1 in April, takes a meaningful drop in class after finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and fifth in the Belmont S. (G1) for Todd Pletcher.
“Bourbonic has trained well since the Belmont Stakes,” Pletcher said. “He needed a little freshener, and he has responded.”
Hoping to grab a share or more are Kinetic Sky and Bourbon Thunder, both of whom are stepping up from the allowance ranks.
The most significant of the six other stakes on the West Virginia Derby Day card is the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s S. (G3), a 1 1/16-mile test for older horses. Heading the field is Mighty Heart, who captured last season’s Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales S. The dual Canadian classicist enters off back-to-back wins in the Blame S. at Churchill Downs and the Dominion Day (G3) at Woodbine.