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A Longshot That's Aiming High

Author

Bill Mooney

Date

Wed, Aug 3, 2016

     Longshots can add storybook elements to horse racing, especially when they seemingly come out of the clouds to win. Should Anaximandros be victorious in the 47th running of the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby, tornadoes and typhoons might ensue. He’s 50-1 in the morning line for today’s 1 1/8-mile event at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.
     Anaximandros is not devoid of ability. Granted, in his initial try at breaking his maiden, at Gulfstream Park in South Florida on April 9, he barely lifted an aggressive hoof and got beat by over 20 lengths. “Anaximandros trailed the field and failed to rally,” was the terse assessment in the official race chart footnotes. Anaximandros beat only one horse. 
     But in his next start, at the rather substantial odds of 114-1, Anaximandros finished second. This time, the official race chart noted that he “made a move (on) the far turn, steadily gained ground,” and “finished clearly second best.”
     It was an encouraging effort by Anaximandros for his transplanted Russian owner/ trainer, Mikhail Yakanov. And better efforts followed. On May 20, the colt graduated from the maiden ranks, registering a three-quarter-length score at the 1 1/16-mile distance. On June 26, he was an allowance winner, prevailing by a length at the one-mile distance in a time of 1:36.95.
     Now, he’s making a huge step upward to major stakes company. It must be noted that Anaximandros is one of three horses in this year’s West Virginia Derby devoid of black-type experience. (The others are Alan E. Goldberg’s allowance winner, Name Changer, who is 15-1 in the morning line; and Pinson, a maiden winner from Mike Maker’s barn, who is 20-1.) 
     The lack of high-level experience amounts to something short of a plus. Further, this will be the first time Anaximandros has competed anywhere but Gulfstream. His career purse earnings, $51,720, are the lowest among all 11 horses in the Derby field.
     But regardless of where or at what level they compete, even the longest of longshots sometimes win. Think Arcangues – he was sent from the post at 133-1 odds in the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, and won by two lengths. 
     Arcangues’ jockey, Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey, said afterwards that he had never even seen the horse prior to boarding him in the pre-race paddock. And Bailey also said that he couldn’t understand the pre-race instructions delivered by trainer Andre Fabre, “because they were delivered in French,” a language Bailey does not speak.
     Anaximandros was one of the first horses to arrive for this year’s West Virginia Derby, and local conditioners have spoken well of his swift and strong appearance during morning gallops. A few have predicted (although not for attribution) that he might hit the board. 
     His sire, Hard Spun, finished second in the 2007 Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness. Dragon Fly, the dam of Anaximandros, was bred and raced in France – she competed at distances of up to two miles, but never won or placed.     
     To date, the longest shot to account for the West Virginia Derby was Park’s Policy, who returned $57.60 for a two-dollar win ticket in 1981. Because of an overflow of entrants, the race was run in two divisions that year. Park’s Policy led wire-to-wire in the first division under jockey Jeff Lloyd.
     The longest shot ever to run in the race was Dr. E. Claire, who was 253-1 when he exited the starting gate in 2003. That was the year Soto set the still-prevailing stakes and track record time of 1:46.29 for the nine-furlong distance. Dr. E. Claire finished last in the nine-horse field, trailing Soto by 51 ¼ lengths at the wire.
     Anaximandros will likely receive more respect from the wagering public with his West Virginia Derby effort. And he’ll likely fare better, too. But to what degrees require some fairly wild guesses. His jockey, South Florida-based Leonel Reyes, has only 37 career wins. Four of them occurred in a cluster last Friday at Gulfstream. 
     We shall wait, watch, and see.
     Mountaineer Notes: Mo Tom has been scratched from the West Virginia Derby . . . Deshawn Parker, whose win ratio at the Hancock County track this year is 30.1% (gained from 149 wins in 494 mounts), will ride in six of the stakes on the Derby undercard. Last year, Parker was aboard Looks to Spare, who returned $150.60 for a two-dollar win ticket in the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes. Parker will be on Grande Shores, 20-1 in the morning line, in this year’s Governor’s.

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