CHESTER - Talk about a trainer whose guns are loaded for Saturday's West Virginia Derby undercard - look at Garry Simms. He's shipping in with Blueeyesintherein to run in the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies Stakes and with Circle Unbroken, who will go to the post in the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile.
Both 2-year-olds are undefeated and graded stakes winners. Blueeyesintherein scored by 2 lengths the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill Downs. Circle Unbroken registered a one-length victory in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill. Both races were last month.
"I worked them this morning, they looked good, and I like where I'm at with them," said Simms on Monday from his barn on the Churchill backside. "We'll be arriving at Mountaineer the day before they race."
Blueeyesintherein made her career debut at Churchill on May 31, and she made it look easy, cruising through 4 furlongs in :51.66. In the six-furlong Debutante, Blueeyesintherein was in the middle of the field early, took the lead in upper stretch and completed her tour in 1:11.71. She was the even-money favorite in the field of 10, and performed accordingly.
Circle Unbroken's debut occurred at Churchill on June 17, when he clocked a final time of 1:03.95 for five furlongs and prevailed by 1 lengths, returning a generous $24.20 for a $2 win ticket. In the Bashford Manor, Circle Unbroken moved between rivals in the final eighth to finish a length in front, completing the six furlongs in 1:11.21.
At odds of 2-1, he was the betting choice in the field of seven.
Mountaineer's Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile are also six-panel events, so neither Blueeyesintherein nor Circle Unbroken will be going an untried distance. Leandro Goncalves, whose 990 career wins include 39 in stakes, will be their rider. Goncalves was aboard Blueeyesintherein for her two prior outings, and he also booted Circle Unbroken to his maiden score.
The Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile have short histories - both date back only to 2005 - but they have already produced some pretty fair runners. Appealing Zophie, who was second in the 2006 Juvenile Fillies, won the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga in her next start. Terrain, the 2008 Juvenile winner, also won the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington Park, and was second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.
Blueyeyesintherein, a $10,000 auction purchase, campaigns for a partnership that includes Dorothy Self, Berry King and Travis Morgeson. She is the first stakes winner for the sire Magna Graduate, who finished second to Real Dandy in the 2005 West Virginia Derby.
Circle Unbroken, who competes for Morgeson, was bought by Simms for $92,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Simms was born and raised in Louisville.
"I know the Kentucky (sales) consignors," he said. "I know who's shooting straight and I know who's shooting around the corner."
The 60-year-old Simms has been fighting a nearly three-year battle with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer where abnormal plasma cells accumulate in bone marrow and prohibit the production of normal blood cells.
The condition has put Simms through 15 radiation and 60 chemotherapy treatments, along with two bone marrow stem cell transplants. Three of his vertebrae have been reinforced with cement infusions. The disease has pared three inches off Simms former 6-foot-3 frame. He has regained a portion of the 70 pounds that at one point he had lost.
Circle Unbroken is named for the support system of friends and relatives that has surrounded Simms. He says he's "having a ball" enjoying the exploits of Blueeyesintherein and Circle Unbroken. Lots of people will be pulling for Simms and his horses this Saturday at Mountaineer.
NOTES: Trainer Bob Baffert has informed the Mountaineer racing office that his Grade 2 Swaps Stakes winner Blueskiesnrainbows will not be shipping in for the West Virginia Derby. ... Macho Macho, trained by Steve Asmussen (who has won the race three times), is expected to be entered. In his most recent effort, Macho Macho was a hard-driving second, missing victory by a half-length, in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park. The pre-race record of Macho Macho is similar to that of Soul Warrior, who Asmussen sent out to upset Big Drama and Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the 2009 West Virginia Derby. ... The West Virginia Derby will be shown live nationally in high definition Saturday at 5 p.m. on Fox Sports.