CHESTER - Granted, there are trainers bringing more accomplished horses to Saturday's Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby presented by Xpressbet. But none are as intriguing as Michael A. Tomlinson's colt, For Goodness Sake, in the 1 1/8-mile event at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.
The most lightly raced competitor in the field of eight, For Goodness Sake has a resume that reveals five starts, a pair of wins, a third-place finish and purse earnings of $64,620. His maiden score, which was achieved at Churchill Downs on May 25, was achieved in front-running style at the nine-furlong distance.
For Goodness Sake won by a widening 10 lengths in the equally impressive time of 1:51.56. On June 28, he won wire-to-wire in a 1 1/16-mile Churchill allowance, finishing 6 lengths in front in a time of 1:43.77. Both Churchill victories were achieved against older horses.
How ready is For Goodness Sake to run in Derby competition at this early stage of his career? "The distance of the race will not be a factor, although the lack of experience could be," Tomlinson said. "He's flexible and very durable. He's got a lot of ability, and he's really beginning to show what he can do."
At 6-1 in the West Virginia Derby morning line, For Goodness Sake rates as fourth choice in the field of eight - behind the trio of Grade 2 winners, Candy Boy (9-5), Tapiture (5-2) and Vicar's in Trouble (3-1). He will ridden by 29-year-old Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr., who in 2012 booted Fort Larned to victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
Tomlinson, age 60, grew up in Mustang, Okla. He has been training a thoroughbred stable since 1991, currently has 20 horses in his charge and is based at Churchill. In 2003, Tomlinson won the Arkansas Derby with Sir Cherokee, who closed from last to first position in the 12-horse field to prevail by 1 lengths. Sir Cherokee returned $113.20 for a $2 win ticket.
"Sir Cherokee was a very nice horse, but he was vulnerable to the pace, it had to be fast to set things of for him," said Tomlinson. "It's different with For Goodness Sake. He's much more capable of being a controlling factor."
Bred in Kentucky, For Goodness Sake is a son of Big Brown, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2008, and was North America's 3-year-old champion. Fifteenth East, the dam of For Goodness Sake, won one of her ten career, breaking her maiden in her ninth try at Turfway Park. Fifteenth East has a 5x3 Bold Ruler cross in her pedigree. There's plentiful talent to be passed down
For Goodness Sake originally competed for Hoffman Thoroughbreds - Chad Brown (a former Bobby Frankel assistant) was his trainer. The colt was claimed out of his second career start at Gulfstream Park in February. The tag was for $50,000, and it was paid by Vince Foglia for his V-Leaf Stables LLC operation. Tomlinson has been For Goodness Sake's conditioner since then.
There are precedents in recent editions of the West Virginia Derby for a horse with only maiden and allowance victories defeating a more accomplished foe. The most noteworthy example is Soul Warrior, who beat Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in 2009. Another example is Macho Macho, who beat Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Hansen in 2012.
But Soul Warrior came to Mountaineer with a stakes placing on his resume. Macho Macho was graded stakes-placed. But neither of them had prior run, much less won, at the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby distance. The situation with For Goodness Sake does intrigue.
NOTES: Mylute, who finished a close third to Oxbow and Itsmyluckyday in the 2013 Preakness Stakes, has been entered by trainer Thomas Amoss in the $200,000 West Virginia Governor's Stakes on Saturday's Derby undercard ... West Virginia Derby morning line favorite Candy Ride was scheduled to arrive at Mountaineer on Wednesday evening ... Tapiture was tabbed for a Thursday arrival, and Vicar's in Trouble will arrive on Friday.