Skip to main content

West Virginia Derby Recap


Tom LaMarra


Mon, Aug 7, 2017


Date: Aug. 5, 2017

From: Mountaineer Racetrack, Casino & Resort


By: Tom LaMarra

A.J. Foyt Jr. knows all about winning major auto races, but on Aug. 5 at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort the longtime Thoroughbred owner won his biggest horserace ever.

Foyt watched from home as Colonelsdarktemper, a colt he purchased for $35,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale, took the lead no one else wanted and kept on going to win the $750,000 West Virginia Derby, the Grade III centerpiece of the Mountaineer racing season.

The race ended up being a family affair. Trainer William “Jinks” Fires is the father-in-law of jockey Jon Court. And though not related, Fires has been training for Foyt—winner of the Indianapolis 500 four times-- for about 20 years, and the two are good friends.

“I was under the weather and wish I could have made it to West Virginia, but I watched the race and was really happy to see him win,” said Foyt, who now fields auto-racing teams under the banner A.J. Foyt Enterprises. “Once he got the lead nobody really went with him and it looked like it was no contest. I’m just really glad for Jinks (Fires) and John (Court). They do a great job. Actually my horses are running better than my race cars.”

Ten 3-year-olds broke from the gate in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby, which drew a bit more attention this year because of the presence of Patch, a colt who had his left eye removed because of an infection at age 2. Patch in his previous start finished third in the Grade I Belmont Stakes, third leg of the Triple Crown, and was sent away as the 2-1 favorite at Mountaineer.

The early pace wasn’t fast, and that left Colonelsdarktemper, a son of Colonel John, on the lead before the opening quarter-mile had been completed. Court nursed him along under minimal pressure from longshot Heartwood, and on the final turn Colonelsdarktemper opened up a lead of several lengths.

Loooch Racing Stable’s Game Over, who sat behind the winner most of the way, left the rail entering the stretch and narrowed the gap. But Colonelsdarktemper held on to win by one length and paid $16 to win as the fifth choice in the field.

The final time for the distance on a fast track was 1:50.68.

I had spoken with (Jinks) about the possibility of no one really wanting the lead and whether it could produce a favorable result to try to get it,” Court said. “He allowed me to dictate the pace, and it paid off big. Jinks has done a great job with this horse, not only the physical but the mental. This horse is all business now.”

Colonelsdarktemper entered the West Virginia Derby off of a second-place finish to multiple graded stakes-winner Irap in the $500,000 Grade II Indiana Derby July 15. Before that he finished second in the Grade III Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs behind the highly rated McCraken.

Fires has been training for decades, but he hadn’t made it to Mountaineer.

“This is the other side of great,” Fires said. “This was my first trip here and I’m really pleased with what happened. This horse is competitive like his owner, but there was no pressure from A.J. He’s a great owner. He’s knows things happen so it’s always OK.”

Game Over, making only his fourth career start, finished 3 ¼ lengths of Lookin At Lee, the second-place finisher in the Grade I Kentucky Derby who rallied well from last at the half-mile mark. Ron Paolucci, a northeast Ohio native who operates Loooch Racing, had said he expected a big effort from Game Over.

“I think he got bogged down along the inside, and when it came time to run, I think that took its toll,” he said.

Patch, who got away in seventh, gradually gained ground in the final half-mile but had too much work to do. He finished a neck behind Lookin At Lee in fourth.

“We didn’t get away from the gate the cleanest and were forced to chase the pace,” said Florida-based jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who rode Patch. “We didn’t have much pace to run at. He dug in but the trip just didn’t work out.”

Mountaineer announced total wagering on its nine-race Saturday card was $2,223,767, down slightly from the 2016 figure.

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


Sign up for email offers

Invalid email address
Tell us your interests:

Thank you

Thank you for signing up to become an Email Insider! You’ll be among the first to receive offers and promotions from Mountaineer Casino!

Update your preferences