Prospects for the Sunland Derby

Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino
Friday, March 16, 2018
by Eric Alwan


Nation’s top trainers sending horses for $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) on Sunday, March 25


An array of the nation’s top trainers are planning on sending horses to the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) to be run on Sunday, March 25 at Sunland Park Racetrack Casino and Hotel. Elite conditioners like Steve Asmussen, Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas and Simon Callaghan are targeting Sunland Park’s biggest race.

The $800,000 purse and 85 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby are highly attractive lures to these top outfits. The winner receives 50 points to the Kentucky Derby. Second place earns 20 points. Third place gets 10 points and fourth place earns 5 points.

Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen could be sending two quality three-year-olds in New York Central and Dream Baby Dream. New York Central has already carved out two wins from four starts. The Tapit colt recently won an allowance at Oaklawn Park going one and one-eighth miles, the same distance as the Sunland Derby (Gr. III). He has a strong cruising speed and broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last fall. The winner of $104,600 is owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and SF Racing. The grey roan colt has been working forwardly since his last Oaklawn win on Feb. 19.

Dream Baby Dream is another imposing Asmussen runner with recent Oaklawn Park form. The Into Mischief colt is very fit coming off three straight third place finishes to stablemates New York Central and Title Ready and the Risen Star Stakes winner Bravazo. The battle tested sophomore is also a maiden winner from Churchill Downs and has a strong stretch kick.

Asmussen won the 2017 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) with Hence.

Prince Lucky represents the Todd Pletcher stable. The Pennsylvania bred son of Corinthian is a restricted bred stakes winner at Parx and is a 3-time winner from 5 starts. The winner of nearly $135,000 has a good looking form line and split the field in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 13.

D. Wayne Lukas has a solid prospect with Kentucky Club. The Oxbow colt owned by Calumet Farm packs a solid late kick. He finished 6th in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes.

Bob Baffert looks to send Restoring Hope for Sunland Park’s biggest race. The son of Giant’s Causeway drilling Santa Anita maidens by over 3 lengths on Feb. 2. The victory came at one mile and one sixteenth, and Restoring Hope was full of run in the final furlong. He should be a big threat on March 25. His 5 workouts following that maiden win have been exceptional. Restoring Hope is owned by Gary and Mary West. Ax Man is another potential starter from the Baffert stable. Baffert has won the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) three times, most recently with Chitu in 2014.

Simon Callaghan’s All Out Blitz will receive ample betting attention. He was a runner-up to McKinzie in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita and came in third in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes. In his maiden win at Los Alamitos last December, the Concord Point gelding beat Restoring Hope by a nose. All Out Blitz outran Southwest Stakes winner My Boy Jack in the Sham Stakes. Trainer Callaghan saddled 2015 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) Firing line who would go on to finish second to American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby.

Dark Vader, third place finisher in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis stakes, looms large for trainer Peter Eurton.

Local hopes rest with Todd Fincher’s Runway Ghost. The Ghostzapper colt was a runway winner of the $100,000 Riley Allison Derby and finished second to Reride in the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby.


Over $1.5 million in purses for Sunland Derby (Gr. III) day card.


The Sunland Derby (Gr. III) day card will feature a bonanza of stakes races worth over $1.5 million. The impressive undercard presents the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes, $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap, $100,000 New Mexico State University Handicap, $100,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby and $100,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks.

Local sensation Blamed is an early favorite for the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks at one and one-sixteenth miles. The three-year-old daughter of Blame rolled through confident victories in the $65,000 El Paso Times Stakes and the $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes. Joel Marr trains the sharp filly for long-time Sunland Park horse owner Cleber Massey.

Charge Back, Bella Be Ready, Charge Back, Heavenhasmynikki, Kram, Poetic and Thirteen Squared are also possible Oaks runners.


Advance wagering begins on Saturday, March 24 – Handicapping Seminar on Sunday, March 25


Advance wagering on the entire Sunland Derby (Gr. III) day card begins on Saturday, March 24.

A free handicapping seminar starts at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 25 in the Signature Showroom. The informative session will be hosted by racing personalities Tom Dawson, Robert Geller and Julie Farr. First post time on Sunday is 12:30 p.m. The Sunland Derby (Gr. III) will be the 11th of 12 races on the card with a starting time of 5:15 p.m.


Sunland Derby Gala features Neal McCoy and Pat Day on Friday, March 23


The annual Sunland Derby Gala happens on Friday, March 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the Turf Club. Come meet Pat Day, one of America’s most successful thoroughbred jockeys of all time and Neal McCoy, 1998 & 1999 Country Music Entertainer of the Year!

The event is a semi-formal affair with all proceeds benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association. The celebrity guest entertainer is Neal McCoy – Country Music Legend and Big Band Crooner. Also in attendance will be Pat Day, four-time winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey and a National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame inductee. The doors open at 6:30 p.m., kicking off with a silent auction and celebrity meet and greet. Neal McCoy takes the stage for a live performance at 8 p.m. Tickets are $100 per seat with tables and sponsorships available for purchase.