03/12/2007 11:00PM

Baffert has favorite to boot

Email

When Bob Baffert returns Sunday to his old stomping grounds at Sunland Park for the $600,000 WinStar Derby, he will revisit an old tradition.

"I'll reorder from the Lucchese Boot Company," said Baffert. "It's where I stock up on boots every year."

And by the way, Baffert also hopes to return to the Sunland winner's circle. Last year, he sent out the one-two finishers in the WinStar Derby in Wanna Runner and Sky Diving, and this year he will be back trying to win with Law Breaker, one of the favorites in the 1 1/8-mile race.

Law Breaker, the runner-up in the Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita in his last start Feb. 11, has been extremely competitive in all four of his races. Besides the San Vicente, the Silver Deputy colt has two wins and a close third-place finish.

"He's a gutty little horse," said Baffert. "He tries every time. When he broke his maiden first time out, he paid $110, and that told me we'd probably be getting more out of him than we had a right to expect."

Sunland racing secretary Norm Amundson said Tuesday that about eight 3-year-olds are likely for the WinStar Derby. Besides Law Breaker, others among the likely favorites are the Steve Asmussen-trained duo of Forty Grams and Takedown, and the Dale Romans-trained Solemn Promise.

Forty Grams earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure when he finished third in his last start, the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 19. Takedown won the local prep for the WinStar, the Borderland Derby on Feb. 17, and Solemn Promise, owned by WinStar Farm, ships in from Gulfstream Park off a career debut victory on Feb. 10 that earned an 86 Beyer.

The balance of the prospective field, all based at Sunland, is Jack Hes Tops, Congo Bay, Game of Skill, and Song of Navarone.

The WinStar Derby is an ungraded race, and therefore earnings are not credited toward eligibility to the Kentucky Derby in case more than 20 are entered on the first Saturday in May. Only three of the eight prospective starters have been nominated to the Triple Crown: Law Breaker, Forty Grams, and Song of Navarone.

The WinStar Derby will be televised live on ESPNews on a broadcast starting at 4:45 p.m. Mountain.

The WinStar Derby anchors the richest racing program of the year at Sunland, which is located just west of El Paso, Tex., in south-central New Mexico. Also on Sunday's 12-race card are: the $200,000 WinStar Sunland Oaks, a 1o1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies; the $150,000 Harry W. Henson Breeders' Cup Handicap, for fillies and mares at a mile; and the $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Derby for 3-year-old statebreds at a mile.

Amundson said he is expecting about 10 fillies for the Oaks, led by the Baffert-trained Tough Tiz's Sis, winner of a Feb. 25 allowance mile at Santa Anita in her most recent start. Other probables include Berriestoheaven, Nice Inheritance, Slew o' Platinum, Stage Stop, and Swiss Current.

Entries for the Sunday card are to be drawn Thursday.