Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino
Sunday, March 25, 2018
by Eric Alwan
Runaway Ghost powers to win $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III)
Local star makes good in Kentucky Derby prep
In a bravura performance, local star Runaway Ghost blitzed his rivals with a commanding 2 and 3/4 length win in the 15th running of the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino on Sunday.
The Todd Fincher trainee was brilliant in the 1 and 1/8 mile Kentucky Derby prep and picked up 50 valuable qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby. Runaway Ghost became only the third locally based horse to win the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) in its 15 editions. He currently ranks as the 7th leading point getter for the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
Under a very thoughtful ride from Tracy Hebert, Runaway Ghost accelerated from 8th place passing the first quarter mile marker to taking a confident lead heading into the stretch. The 7-2 post time favorite used a 4 to 6 wide run on the final turn to put his stamp on the race. The Ghostzapper colt was 4 lengths in front at the top of the stretch and cruised home an easy winner in a time of 1:49.20.
Fincher said in the winner’s circle, “We knew he was legit since we was a baby. We raised him and had great luck with his mother (Rose’s Desert). Everything worked out perfectly. We got a good smooth run into the first turn. He was a little further back than normal, but he had plenty left at the end.”
Winning owner and breeder Joe Peacock echoed these sentiments, “He’s the number one Thoroughbred I’ve ever had. If I could, I want to go the Kentucky Derby as fast as I can.”
Out of the stakes winning New Mexico-bred star Rose’s Desert, Runaway Ghost relishes the Sunland oval as much as his mother. He scored a runaway win in the $100,000 Riley Allison Futurity on Jan. 28 and came back to run a game second in the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby. The bay colt earned $400,000 for his Sunland Derby (Gr. III) triumph. The mild favorite paid $9.80 to win.
Dream Baby Dream and jockey Alfredo Juarez, Jr. closed with interest to gain second place for trainer Steve Asmussen. The runner-up made a wide move on the turn and finished 6 lengths clear of the third place finisher – Peace. Dream Baby Dream earned $176,000 for the Dream Baby Dream Racing Stable and picked up 20 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby.
Peace earned $96,000 for the Spendthrift Farm LLC and Town and Country Racing LLC. The Violence colt trained by Richard Mandella acquired 10 points for entry to the Kentucky Derby.
Fourth place finisher Seven Trumpets earned 5 points toward the Kentucky Derby. Dark Vader, Choo Choo, Shane Zain, All Out Blitz, Prince Lucky, New York Central, Hollywood Star and Fortified Effort rounded out the order of finish in the 12 horse field.
Blamed demolishes field in $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks
Blamed was let loose at the top of the stretch en route to a demolition win in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks at 1 and 1/16 miles. Under jockey Ken Tohill, Blamed waited patiently before attacking front runner Kram at the quarter pole.
The immensely talented daughter of Blame took off energetically when asked by Tohill, and the race was never in doubt. Blame earned her ticket for the Kentucky Oaks with a dominating 6 and 1/4 length win in a time of 1:43.32. The victory was her fifth in a row and third consecutive stakes triumph. The three-year-old filly was coming off local wins in the $65,000 El Paso Times Stakes and the $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes. She earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
Blamed is owned by long time Southwest horseman Cleber Massey and conditioned by Joel Marr.
Marr said in the winner’s circle, “We are very proud of her. She relaxed very well today and gave us a different look. You never know what can happen when you don’t get the early lead. She showed us a new dimension today.”
Blamed earned $124,000 from her fifth career win in six starts. She paid $2.80 as the 2-5 favorite.
Kram finished a good second place, 8 lengths in front of Charge Back.
State Record all sources handle of nearly $4.3 million
Wagering on the 12-race Sunland Derby (Gr. III) day card set a new state record for all sources handle. Nearly $4.3 million was wagered on the card. A robust crowd of 16,717 fans came out to watch and wager on Sunland Park’s biggest day.
Live racing resumes on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m.
Photo Credit: Coady Photography