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Mr Freeze Chills The Competition In West Virginia Derby


Tom LaMarra


Tue, Aug 7, 2018


Date: Aug. 4, 2018

From: Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort


Mr Freeze, in only his fourth start, chilled a solid bunch of 3-year-olds with a strong front-end victory in the $500,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort the afternoon of Aug. 4.

Owned by Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister and trained by Kentucky-based Dale Romans, Mr Freeze entered the 1 1/8-mile grade III fixture at Mountaineer off of a close second-place finish to High North in the $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino July 6. He won his first two starts—a maiden special weight event at Keeneland in April in the first start of his career, and an allowance race at Churchill Downs in June.

This year’s West Virginia Derby, which attracted a nine-horse field, appeared wide-open on paper, and it was hard to determine who would take the early initiative given similar off-the-pace running styles. Mr Freeze broke well from post 8 and held a short advantage over Iowa Derby winner High North for three-quarters of a mile, but as the field approached the top of the stretch, the leader put separation between himself and the rest.

Romans indicated he wasn’t expecting Mr Freeze, who he purchased as agent for $75,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale, to be on the lead in the Derby. Things may not have gone according to plan, but he couldn’t argue with the result.

“He ran really well,” Romans said. “We think he’s a special horse, and I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen the best of him.”

With Robby Albarado aboard, Mr Freeze clicked off fractions of :24.02 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.88 for a half-mile, and 1:11.13 for six furlongs. High North began to back off entering the stretch, and Mr Freeze gradually pulled away to win by eight lengths in a sharp 1:47.95 on a track rated fast.

The 1 1/8-mile Mountaineer record is 1:46.29 established by Soto in the 2003 West Virginia Derby, but most editions of the Derby have been timed in the 1:50 range.

Mr Freeze paid $15.20 to win as the fifth choice. Draft Pick, never far back throughout, nipped High North for second, while Lionite rallied from last to fourth.

My intentions were to leave (the gate) aggressively, and he broke extremely well,” said Albarado, who has ridden Mr Freeze in all four of his races. “He put me in the race and was within himself. I was able to control the race from the start.

“I wanted to be off the pace, but since he broke so well at the start, I had to call an audible. I didn’t want to squeeze the inside too hard, and I think that was the deciding factor. He’s a nice horse and he did the right things to win today.”

Jason Cook, a Romans assistant who traveled to the Northern Panhandle to saddle Mr Freeze, said the Kentucky-bred colt by To Honor and Serve out of the Tabasco Cat mare Heavenly Cat handled the 85-degree heat and high humidity extremely well.

“He never turned a hair in the paddock, and you could see he was all business,” Cook said. “He loves doing this, and you can tell he’s so proud of himself. I took him to the Iowa Derby, and after that race I could tell he has a lot of ability. He’s just going to get better.”

Plans for Mr Freeze’s next race are up in the air, but Albarado is confident the colt is up to the task.

“He's going to be a force to be reckoned with later in the year, especially with (Triple Crown winner Justify) retired now,” Albarado said. “He can be something good.”


The Brad Cox racing stable had a big afternoon at Mountaineer Aug. 4 with three stakes victories, including one in the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes, which for the first time was run with a grade III designation.

But it was even better. Cox trainees Leofric and Term of Art ran one-two in the 1 1/16-mile Governor’s Cup. Their total take of purse money was $168,600.

Leofric, owned by Steve Landers, and Term of Art, owned by Calumet Farm, got away first and second, respectively, and remained that way throughout save for a short time at the three-quarter-mile mark when Term of Art stuck a head in front. At the finish, Leofric had a neck in front of Term of Art, with Matrooh another length behind in third.

The time for the 1 1/16 miles on a track rated fast was 1:42.74. Leofric, ridden by Florent Geroux, paid $4.20 to win as the favorite in a field of five.

Leofric, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred horse by Candy Ride, now has six wins in 11 starts. The Governor’s Stakes marked his first stakes victory.

“He’s just a solid horse,” said Ricky Giannini, an assistant to Cox who handled the duties on a busy day at Mountaineer. “I didn’t think he’d be that sharp out the gate, but Florent and I had talked before the race. There wasn’t a lot of speed, and it set up really well for him.”

Term of Art entered the Cox barn this spring after a layoff dating back to September 2017. The 4-year-old Tiznow colt returned to the races on July 14 and won an allowance race at Ellis Park in Kentucky.

“He had some time off after racing mostly in California,” Giannini said. “He likes to cheat a little bit, so fortunately we also had the horse in front of him at the finish. He was spotted well (in his second start back), so that helped.”

The stable also won the $75,000 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker’s Cup with Landers’ Big Changes and the $75,000 West Virginia Secretary of State with Juddmonte Farms’ Golden Mischief. Geroux was aboard for all three wins as well as the third-place effort by High North in the West Virginia Derby.

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


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