03/24/2009 11:00PM

Baffert pair prominent in 12-horse Sunland Derby


Trainer Bob Baffert first started visiting Sunland Park as a 14-year-old kid tagging along with his father. Sunday, he has two bullets to fire at the meet's richest race, the $800,000 Sunland Park Derby. Baffert will send out Mayor Marv, the morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile race, and Mythical Power, a recent Santa Anita maiden winner who wil be ridden by Garrett Gomez.

"It's a lotta money up for grabs," said Baffert.

In all, a record 12 horses were entered Wednesday in the Sunland Park Derby. If the winner of the race has any previous graded earnings, he will earn a $100,000 bonus. Those that qualify for the bonus are Advice, Kelly Leak, Mark S the Cooler, and Mine That Bird. Posts for the Sunland Derby were determined during a ceremonial draw Wednesday.

"It's done Kentucky Derby style, where we pull out a number and a trainer goes out and selects his post," said Norm Amundson, racing secretary at Sunland.

First up was Mayor Marv, and Baffert chose post 5.

"Trying to figure out strategy, sometimes the first pick is not the best [but] I felt happy with my draw," said Baffert.

Mayor Marv was a wire-to-wire winner of the $100,000 Turf Paradise Derby in his last Feb. 21. Amundson installed him as the 7-2 favorite over Kelly Leak, the 4-1 second choice. Victor Espinoza has the mount on Mayor Marv, while Mike Smith will be aboard Kelly Leak.

Baffert won his first $100,000 stakes, the West Texas Derby for Quarter Horses, many years ago at Sunland, and the race was his springboard to California. He has since won the Kentucky Derby three times and on Sunday is seeking his second Sunland Park Derby win following the 2006 score by Wanna Runner.

His competition includes Valid Stripes, a speed horse who drew the rail on Wednesday with Corey Lanerie named to ride. The rest of the field, from the rail with riders, is Santamonicacanyon, David Flores; Advice, John Velazquez; Dumar, Luis Contreras; Mayor Marv; Scorewithcater, Michael Baze; Mythical Power; Kelly Leak; Mine That Bird, Casey Lambert; Infernal, Mark Villa; Mark S the Cooler, Corey Nakatani, and Smokin' Legend, Jorge Espitia.

The race will go as the 12th on a 13-race card, with a projected post of 5:45 p.m. Mountain. Sunday's card includes four other stakes, topped by the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, which is led by the Baffert-trained pair of Gabby's Golden Gal and Century Park.