Baffert Is Living on a Prayer in W.Va. Derby

By Grupp, John | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 6, 2011 | Go to article overview

Baffert Is Living on a Prayer in W.Va. Derby


Grupp, John, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert calls them "the dirt road derbys."

They are big-money races at out-of-the-way tracks, where cell phone signals and nearby international airports may be lacking but the winning purses are just as green.

"I'm taking the back road with those," Baffert said. "There's a lot of money."

Baffert-trained Prayer for Relief is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for Saturday's $750,000 Grade 2 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in Chester, W.Va.

In his last race, the son of Jump Start won the $250,000 Grade 3 Iowa Derby at another far-away track, Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa. Baffert is trying to repeat last year's sweep, when he won both races with Concord Point.

Post time for the 42nd West Virginia Derby --10 3-year-olds going 11/8 mile on the dirt -- is roughly 5:35 p.m. It is the eighth race of a nine-race, all-stakes card.

Since finishing sixth in his first two races, Prayer for Relief has won three of his past four starts. He flew from California on the same flight as another West Coast shipper, 7-2 second-choice Dreamy Kid, and arrived at Mountaineer on Thursday.

Jockey Rafael Bejarano, who won the 2004 West Virginia Derby on Sir Shackleton, will leave aboard Prayer for Relief from the No. 1 post.

"He's training really well," Baffert said. "I expect him to run a good race. He's doing great. He's just getting good right now. You've got to take advantage of that."

Dreamy Kid is conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale, who has raced top horses around the world but never at Mountaineer Park.

In his last start, Dreamy Kid, who will be carrying a high weight of 120 pounds and ridden by Joe Talamo, won the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park at odds of 19-1. The son of Lemon Drop Kid finished a head in front of Coil, who came back to win the $1 million Haskell Invitational last weekend.

"(Dreamy Kid) ran an improved race in the Swaps, and I'm hoping he improves again," Drysdale said. "He's a late bloomer."

Other notable entrants include Awesome Bet, who will try to give trainer Steve Asmussen his fourth West Virginia Derby win in the past seven years; Infrattini, ridden by three-time Kentucky Derby- winning jockey Calvin Borel; Iowa Derby runner-up Sherriff Cogburn, owned by country music star Toby Keith; Little Drama, a multiple stakes winner; and speedy Tony Dutrow-trained Rush Now. …

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