Heading into the final 1/8th of a mile of the long, tortuous, grinding and thrilling Kentucky Derby, jockey Corey Lanerie began to dream about the one thing; the one race; the one winner’s circle that — more than any other — he would like to come true.
He was astride his 3-year-old colt Lookin At Lee, and after skimming the rail and skipping over mud puddles, all he had in front of him were blue skies and one horse, by the name of Always Dreaming.
And, for a moment, it was Lanerie that was always dreaming. “I really, truly, thought, for just a second that we were gaining on him and that we had a chance to win the Kentucky Derby,” said Lanerie, just a few days after this year’s Run for the Roses. “I really thought we had a chance. A big chance.”
He didn’t. Always Dreaming kept running on that day. Lookin At Lee kept on being second. And, Lanerie keeps on dreaming of the day to, perhaps, come in the future.
This Saturday, though, Lanerie and Lookin at Lee will be reunited in another Derby. Not as glamorous, mind you. But a Derby, just the same. This Saturday, the duo will take on 10 others in the $750,000, Grade 2 West Virginia Derby at the scenic Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.
The 11/8th-mile contest has drawn a quality field of 11, from the rail out:
- Game Over (Jockey Deshawn Parker)
- Phat Man (Jockey Ricardo Santana)
- Patch (Jockey Tyler Gaffalione)
- B Squared (Jockey Mario Gutierrez)
- Impressive Edge (Jockey Robby Albarado)
- Watch Me Whip (Jockey Robby Albarado)
- Colonelsdarktemper (Jockey Jon Court)
- Lookin at Lee (Jockey Corey Lanerie)
- Silver Dust (Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.)
- Heartwood (Jockey Nik Goodwin)
- McCormick (Jockey Julian Leparoux
Of all the horses entered in this year’s version of West Virginia’s top race for 3-year-old colts, the standout on paper is, without question, Lookin at Lee.
After all, in addition to his impressive second place finish in the Kentucky Derby, the son of Lookin at Lucky, ran a closing fourth in the Preakness Stakes and became the only colt to make all three legs of the Triple Crown series this year when he ran a tiring 28 lengths behind the eventual winner Tapwrit in the Belmont Stakes.
Since then, the colt has gotten a freshening from trainer Steve Asmussen, who has managed to saddle five winners of this stakes race in the past — most recently with Tapiture in 2014.
And, he will get the expert services of Corey Lanerie back in the saddle for the first time since the run in the Preakness Stakes.
But it won’t be easy sailing on Saturday. The West Virginia Derby has drawn a quality field, all with deep resumes and racing profiles that give their connections a reason to dream, as well.
There is Patch, who is making his first start since running a game third in the Belmont Stakes, behind Tapwrit and Irish War Cry.
There is B Squared, who is shipping East for the connections of Doug O’Neill and owner Paul Reddam. This colt just ran a huge third in the Los Alamitos Derby to one of the hottest 3YOs in the country right now — Bob Baffert’s West Coast, who is being pointed toward the Travers.
There is Colonelsdarktemper, who will be saddled by Jinks Fires and ridden by his son-in-law Jon Court. This group teamed up to nearly nip Irap in the Indiana Derby, after having run a game second to the ultra talented McCraken in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs.
And, there is McCormick, a salty newcomer who hails from the same barn as McCraken and cut his teeth all spring practicing in the mornings with his more acclaimed stablemate. This one ran a huge one in the Iowa Derby, cutting all the fractions and putting away all the competition before getting passed by Hence in the late stages.
After that one, McCormick’s trainer, Ian Wilkes, was thrilled with his colt’s progress. “I couldn’t be any happier with him,” said Wilkes after that performance. “He really stepped it up and ran a huge race. I think he will really get better after that one.”