Three weeks ago at Indiana Grand, Irap ran past Colonelsdarktemper midway around the far turn like he was tied to a post. But on Saturday in the Grade 3, $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Resort and Casino, Colonelsdarktemper held solid as a post, setting the pace and fending off an upper-stretch challenge from Game Over to score the biggest win of his career.
With Jon Court riding for trainer William "Jinks" Fires and owner A.J. Foyt, Colonelsdarktemper got home one length ahead of Game Over, who had most recently finished fourth in the Ohio Derby. After setting splits of 23.78, 47.85, and 1:13.05 while pressed by Heartwood, Colonelsdarktemper got his mile in 1:38.03 before completing the West Virginia Derby's 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.68. He paid $16 to win.
Lookin At Lee, racing from his usual position far behind the early pace, rallied wide to finish a mild third, 3 1/4 lengths behind Game Over and a neck in front of 2-1 favorite Patch. Patch stalked in mid-pack, but was stuck fairly near what appeared to be the worst part of the track surface along the fence before coming a few paths wide in the homestretch.
After Patch came Silver Dust, Phat Man, McCormick, B Squared, Impressive Edge, and Heartwood.
Racing beyond 1 1/16 miles for the first time, Colonelsdarktemper had been stalking and pressing the pace in his recent races, but Fires and Court plotted a change in tactics Saturday.
"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."
Game Over, making only his fourth career start, turned in a fine performance after breaking from the rail under Deshawn Parker. Trained by Jorge Navarro for Loooch Racing Stable, Game Over tracked the leader from fourth, came inside Heartwood and McCormick before the five-sixteenths pole to take a run at Colonelsdarktemper, and stayed on gamely while never threatening the winner.
Colonelsdarktemper, by Colonel John out of the Stormy Atlantic mare Sweet Temper, didn't make his career debut until this past February at Oaklawn Park. He finished fourth in the Northern Spur there in his stakes debut, disliked a wet track in the Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs, and has since progressed steadily. That progress came to a peak Saturday, when Colonelsdarktemper picked up a $446,250 check, running his earnings to $653,050, a tidy sum for a horse Foyt purchased at a yearling auction for $35,000.