Saturday, March 27, 2010

Look at the field for March 28 Sunland Derby

Preview of candidates for the Grade 3 $800,000 Sunland Derby
By Sunland Park Racetrack media relations guru Eric Alwan

The Grade 3 $800,000 Sunland Derby bursts onto the national racing scene on Sunday, March 28. The 1 and 1/8 mile classic ranks as the second richest Kentucky Derby prep race in North America. The eighth running of Sunland Park’s signature event offers a hefty $400,000 first place check and a berth in the Kentucky Derby. Last year’s Sunland Derby was loaded with top runners. Fourth place finisher Mine That Bird went on to score a thrilling win in the Kentucky Derby at 50-1 odds. The 2010 Sunland Derby promises to draw record crowds. An all-Thoroughbred program is planned for Sunland’s biggest day. Here’s a preview of the leading candidates.

Owner: Zabeel Racing International Corporation.
Trainer: Bob Baffert.
Lifetime Record: 4-4-0-0, $254,400.

Conveyance looks like a blue chip star in the making from the Bob Baffert stable. The unbeaten son of Indian Charlie has rattled through four straight impressive victories including stakes triumphs in the Grade 3 San Rafael and the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. In his most recent spin in Arkansas, Conveyance displayed brisk early speed and carried it well through the one mile distance over the natural dirt course. The grey-roan colt has rarely been headed in any of his four races. His dominating early kick should translate effectively over the Sunland Park surface. Obviously loaded with talent, Conveyance holds an impressive bankroll in excess of one quarter million dollars and a career top Beyer figure of 99. Conveyance is ranked in the Daily Racing Form’s Top 10 Derby Watch. Martin Garcia rides the likely morning line favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

Owner: Joseph Lacombe Stable, Inc.
Trainer: Doug O’Neill.
Lifetime Record: 5-2-0-2, $103,710.

Trained by two-time WinStar Derby winning trainer Doug O’Neill, Classical Slew certainly presents some powerful connections. O’Neill’s charge has placed in two graded stakes races in Southern California. The Bernstein colt ran third in both the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship and the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes. He ran fifth behind Lookin at Lucky in the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar last summer. The 2-time winner has earned over $102,000. O’Neill won the 2003 WinStar Derby with Excessivepleasure and the 2005 edition with Thor’s Echo.

Owner: WinStar Farm LLC, Bill Casner et al.
Trainer: William Mott.
Lifetime Record: 6-2-2-1, $86,170.

Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner William Mott, Drosselmeyer rates a formidable contender for the Grade 3 $800,000 Sunland Derby. Racing as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds, Drosselmeyer closed valiantly to gain fourth place while fighting a pronounced speed bias that day. The Distorted Humor colt owned by the WinStar Farm was beaten less than 2 lengths by Discreetly Mine. In six career starts, the sophomore has raced no worse than fourth while competing against some of the nation’s best. He has carved out two wins and two seconds with his powerful closing kick. Popular at the betting windows, Drosselmeyer has been favored in five of his six career starts. Bill Mott trained the legendary multiple Horse of the Year Cigar.

Owner: WinStar Farm LLC, Bill Casner et al.
Trainer: Shannon Ritter.
Lifetime Record: 3-1-1-0, $30,383.

Endorsement is another elegantly bred colt from the WinStar Farm. The son of Distorted Humor recently scored a 2 length maiden victory at Oaklawn. He set the pace and kicked clear with ease to capture the $36,000 event going one and one-sixteenth miles. Distance should be no problem for this fast improving chestnut colt. The sophomore is out of the A.P. Indy mare Charmed Gift. Although he lacks stakes experience, Endorsement is coming on fast of late and could be a sleeper in the Sunland Derby. His workouts at the Fair Grounds have shown plenty of progress in recent weeks.

Owned by Thomas R. Capehart.
Trainer: L. Brant Taylor.
Lifetime Record: 7-1-1-2, $39,320.

Local conditioner L. Brant Taylor saddles this experienced son of Thunder Gulch for the Sunland Derby. In his seventh career out, Fog Alert tackled some elite company in the Grade 3 El Camino Real at Golden Gate Fields. The grey-roan gelding responded with a strong performance and finished fourth behind Connemara and Posse Power. Fog Alert made a bold middle move and led in upper stretch. Fog Alert broke his maiden last fall at the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita winning a $50,000 maiden claiming race. He followed that effort with a solid third behind Ranger Heartley and The Program in a $40,000 allowance race at Hollywood Park.

Owner: Bongo Racing Stable.
Trainer: Todd Fincher.
Lifetime Record: 6-1-0-1, $21,400.

Former Southern California campaigner Guiltbyassociation made his New Mexico debut a winning one by defeating Raise the Bridle by a nose at Sunland Park on Feb. 17. The Birdstone colt was forced very wide into the first turn during the Borderland Derby, and he wound up fifth. The eventful trip certainly cost him valuable real estate. Trainer Todd Fincher has dominated the Sunland Park stakes this season. His horses have earned over $650,000.

Owner: George and Lori Hall.
Trainer: Kelly Breen.
Lifetime Record: 3-1-0-1, $30,300.

The lightly raced son of Friends Lake won his two-year-old debut in 2009 with ease. He scored an eye opening 6-length maiden win last June at Monmouth over an off track while racing at 10-1 odds. The fast closing sort was wheeled back in the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga last summer, and he ran a strong fourth while encountering traffic problems in the stretch. He was only beaten a length by the classy Backtalk. Trained by New Jersey based conditioner Kelly Breen, Nacho Friend made a strong three-year-old bow at Aqueduct recently where he finished third in the Gotham Stakes. Breen has the three-year-old colt in fine condition. His recent workouts are eye catching. Breen saddled two starters in last year’s Kentucky Derby. Monmouth Park kingpin rider Joe Bravo gets the call on Nacho Friend.

Owner: Lathrop G. Hoffman.
Trainer: Henry Dominguez.
Lifetime Record: 5-2-1-1, $91,770.

Storming Saint gained his first career stakes in the $100,000 Borderland Derby through disqualification of his stable mate Raise the Bridle. Both runners surged well clear of the pack in the Borderland Derby to produce a dynamic finish. Storming Saint earned the victory because of interference through the stretch drive. The chestnut colt by Sweetsouthernsaint showed an abundance of talent early in career. His career debut came in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Ruidoso Downs last summer, and the strapping closer closed well to get second. After scoring a 13-length maiden at Zia Park going one mile, he went on to finish third in the Riley Allison Futurity. He and Raise the Bridle would make two excellent locally based runners pointing for the $800,000 Grade 3 Sunland Derby. Trainer Henry Dominguez won the 2007 WinStar Derby with Song of Navarone.

Owner: Gainsway Stable
Trainer: Steve Klesaris
Lifetime Record: 5-1-3-0, $103,340.

The grey son of Tapit ran a solid second behind Discreetly Mine in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds. In his previous outing over an off track at Aqueduct, Tempted To Tapit scorched his rivals by nearly 12 lengths and earned an impressive 100 Beyer Speed figure. His trainer, Steve Klesaris, directs powerful barns on the East Coast. The versatile gelding has earned over $103,000 far surpassing his yearling sales price of $18,000 at the Keeneland Sales of September 2008. This pace enforcer blends terrific speed with staying power and would be a major force in the Sunland Derby. Tempted To Tapit is ranked in the Top 20 in the Daily Racing Form’s Derby Watch.