Handicapping the 2022 West Virginia Derby


Photo: Courtesy of Oaklawn Park

Seven 3-year-old colts will vie for a purse of $500,000 and a chance to add the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby to their resume on Saturday.

The 1 1/8 mile event attracted the Belmont Stakes third- and fourth-place finishers and the Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher.

Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast sort out the contenders from the pretenders.

ASHLEY

LAURIE

1. Jr’s Gift

Jr’s Gift has circulated on the second tier tracks, plodding along to occasionally pick up a check by landing in the trifecta. Start number eight saw him finally get his picture taken; however, he was a non-threatening presence in his last two starts. This will be the best field he has ever faced, but the waters are deep and he’s barely treading. Passport.

We’ll kick off the West Virginia Derby with the “why” horse. Jr’s Gift needed eight starts to find the winner’s circle. He was a non-threatening sixth in the American Derby in his second start against winners. Passport.

2. Simplification

Simplification stamped himself as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender by winning the Mucho Macho Man and the Fountain of Youth (G2) while adding a place in the Holy Bull (G3) and a show in the Florida Derby (G1), all at Gulfstream. He rounded out the superfecta in the Run for the Roses but bounced in the Preakness (G1). This is obviously a step down in class for him, making him a logical choice. Contender.

Simplification has tactical speed. He passed tired horses to grab fourth place in the Kentucky Derby but regressed in the Preakness. He still has to prove himself beyond 1 1/16 miles, but he’s one of the classier horses in here. Contender.

3. Home Brew

Home Brew beat up on lesser runners in his last two starts, both in listed stakes. In his last outing he posted a dazzling speed figure while winning Monmouth’s Pegasus Stakes by 6 1/4 lengths. As long as the weather holds, Home Brew has a good chance to notch his first graded victory. Contender.

Home Brew’s only bad race was over a sloppy track. There’s a 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms, so flip a coin. The Brad Cox trainee won the Pegasus over a good track, so let’s add him to the mix. Contender.

4. King Ottoman

King Ottoman graduated in the Texas Derby at Lone Star after putting in decent efforts at Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, and Churchill Downs. In his first graded attempt, he finished a good third in the Indiana Derby (G3). I wouldn’t play him on top, but he is certainly a logical one exotics play.

King Ottoman was in tight on the rail in the final furlongs of the Indiana Derby. The pretty gray colt looked a little intimidated but persevered in his duel with the fading pacesetter, Trademark. It was a reasonable effort, and he can improve. Exotics contender.

5. Courvoisier

Courvoisier is another runner that took a few starts to find the winner’s circle. He followed that up with a victory in the Jerome. He backpedaled on a sloppy track in the Withers (G3) then ran an even third in the City of Brotherly Love as the heavy favourite. I’m not a fan of the cognac, and unfortunately for him, that extends to this son of Tapit and Take Charge Brandi. Passport.

The beaten favorite in the City of Brotherly Love Stakes at Parx, Courvoisier has to prove that he can win somewhere other than Aqueduct’s winter meet. Toss.

6. We the People

We the People won his first two career starts but has since fallen into a win, lose, win pattern. He could not carry his speed 1 1/2-miles, but the cut back in distance will be in his favor. Ricardo Santana Jr. hops aboard for the first time in place of Flavien Prat. Contender.

We the People tired to fourth as the Belmont Stakes pacesetter. He does nothing in a small way. He’ll either win big or lose big. I predict the former. Contender.

7. Skippy longstocking

Skippylongstocking has been all over the board. He was a well beaten 6th behind Simplification in the Mucho Macho Man but managed to hit the board in both the Wood Memorial (G2) and the Belmont (G1). He earned his best speed figures in those two races despite not winning. If he builds on his Belmont form, much like runner-up Nest did, then this son of Exaggerator could finally achieve a graded win. Contender.

Skippylongstocking is hunting the elusive graded stakes victory and isn’t in We the People or Simplification’s class. Worth a lower exotics look.

Final Thoughts

Laurie: Over the last decade, presser/setters have been most successful in this race. The majority prepared with a first or second place in the Indiana or Iowa Derbies. The closest we have to that is King Ottoman, who was third in Indiana.

We the People is the confirmed front runner. Courvoisier and Skippylongstocking may keep him company, and perhaps Simplification will join the party. It would have been nice if Flavian Prat made the journey to ride We the People, but Santana is an acceptable substitute.


Ashley:
We the People should fly out of the gate and go straight to the lead. I expect Simplification and Skippylongstocking to be hot on his heels. I am really liking “Skippy” at those 5-1 morning line odds. He finished ahead of We the People in the Belmont. Additionally, the three horses that beat him to the wire in his two best efforts (the Wood Memorial and the Belmont) are not in this field. This seems as good a spot as any to get that first graded win.


SELECTIONS

Ashley

Laurie

7. Skippylongstocking 5-1

6. We the People 2-1

6. We the People 2-1

3. Home Brew 3-1

2. Simplification 5-2

2. Simplification 5-2

3. Home Brew 3-1

4. King Ottoman 6-1

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