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Governor's Stakes Continues to Grow in Stature


Tom LaMarra


Wed, Aug 2, 2017


Date: Aug. 2, 2017

From: Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort


By Tom LaMarra

As the West Virginia Derby continued to grow in stature, one of the objectives of the racing department at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort was to improve the overall program for the first Saturday in August.

A target race was the West Virginia Governor’s Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile event for 3-year-olds and up. Over the years the purse was gradually increased to $200,000 to attract quality fields and perhaps land a Grade III designation from the American Graded Stakes Committee, which reviews all stakes each year.

The $200,000 purse remains intact this year, and if the nine that were entered go to post Aug. 5, they will make for perhaps the best edition of the Governor’s Cup thus far.

The high weights in the field, both at 126 pounds, are Whispering Oaks Farm’s Iron Fist and Lady Sheila Stable’s Matt King Coal. Iron Fist in his last start won the Grade III Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows in Iowa, while Matt King Coal finished fifth in the Grade II Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park in New York.

Iron Fist, a 7-year-old by Tapit who is trained by Steve Asmussen, would make his second appearance at Mountaineer as would Cheyenne Stables’ Madefromlucky. They met in the 2015 West Virginia Derby, with the Todd Pletcher-trained Madefromlucky the winner and Iron Fist fourth.

Since that race, however, Iron Fist has won five races in 13 outings, while Madefromlucky is winless in 11 starts.

Though he has made only six starts so far, The Player, a 4-year-old Street Hero colt owned by trainer Buff Bradley and Carl Hurst, has shown much ability and could be on edge for his second start of the year Saturday afternoon at Mountaineer.

The Player last year finished a close second to Cupid in the Grade II Indiana Derby before going on the sidelines for the rest of the year. Cupid, meanwhile, won the West Virginia Derby three weeks after the Indiana race.

The Player on June 30 finished a closing third at Churchill Downs in a seven-furlong allowance race that featured graded stakes-winning sprinters. He has been training very well at Churchill since that race and should appreciate the added distance of the Governor’s Stakes.

The Linda Rice-trained Matt King Coal has developed into a very consistent front-running type as a 4-year-old. Before his effort in the Suburban, the 4-year-old colt lead all the way in the 1 1/16-mile Mountainview Stakes at Penn National Race Course. He won by 3 ¾ lengths over Adam Staple and Jalin Stable’s Page McKenney, who has two second-place finishes in two starts at Mountaineer.

Page McKenney, trained by Mary Eppler, finished second in the 2015 Governor’s Stakes. The Pennsylvania-bred 7-year-old is one of the more popular horses in the Mid-Atlantic region, having won 18 races with 15 seconds in 48 starts.

For more information contact Tom LaMarra at or at 859-492-8365.


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