Two Kentucky Derby (G1) veterans, Lookin At Lee and Patch, highlight a field of 11 three-year-olds that will compete Saturday in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer.
Not only are Lookin At Lee and Patch seeking their first graded stakes win, but also hoping to punch a ticket to the $1.25 million Travers (G1) at Saratoga on August 26, a race that could go a long way toward determining champion three-year-old male honors.
Lookin At Lee rallied up a favorable inside path to finish second in the Derby, 2 3/4 lengths behind Always Dreaming, but his deep-closing style did not produce similar results in the other two legs of the Triple Crown, where he finished fourth in the Preakness (G1) and seventh in the Belmont (G1).
Sunday marks one year since Lookin At Lee last entered the winner's circle following the Ellis Park Juvenile.
The popular Patch, who unfortunately lost an eye due to infection early in his career, finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby following a rough trip from post 20. The TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) runner-up rebounded in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, finishing a distant third to fellow Todd Pletcher stablemate Tapwrit.
The connections of Kentucky Derby participants Girvin, Irap, and McCraken will be represented in the West Virginia Derby by other horses. Phat Man, a stablemate of Girvin, comes off a win in the $100,000 Long Branch at Monmouth, while Iraps's stablemate, B Squared, has placed behind West Coast and Kentucky Derby third Battle of Midway in his last two starts in California.
Other contenders include McCormick, the Iowa Derby (G3) runner-up and stable companion of McCraken, and Colonelsdarktemper, who comes off second-place efforts to McCraken in the Matt Winn (G3) at Churchill and Irap in the Indiana Derby (G3).
In other racing action on Saturday, Gun Runner is the prohibitive favorite in the $1.2 million Whitney (G1) at Saratoga. Third to Nyquist in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, Gun Runner has developed into one of the nation's top older horses this season.
Second to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March, he enters the Whitney following a blowout win in the Stephen Foster H. (G1) at Churchill on June 17.