Updated on 09/17/2011 10:12AM

Excessivepleasure holds off Spensive in WinStar Derby


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - In the late afternoon of a beautiful day in which Sunland Park lived up to it's name, Pat Day guided Excessivepleasure to a neck victory in the inaugural running of the $500,000 .

Day and Excessivepleasure prompted Pat Valenzuela and Apalachian Thunder through a half-mile in 44.30 seconds. Entering the far turn of the 1 1/16-mile race, Apalachian Thunder began to pull away and it looked as though Excessivepleasure might be calling it quits. But entering the stretch he responded to Day's left-handed whip, reached Apalachian Thunder three wide, and took the lead in midstretch. Day then switched the whip to his right hand and nursed a little more run from Excessivepleasure, who was able to hold off favored Spensive and Gary Stevens by a neck. Apalachian Thunder finished third, only a length behind the winner.

In a post-race press conference, Day was self-deprecating amid the kudos thrown his way. When asked if he had consciously given Excessivepleasure a breather on the far turn, he replied, "I really believe the horse gave himself a breather. I thought we were done, then he picked it up in the stretch when he had to. You could say the horse rode his own race. He had me fooled for a bit there."

For trainer Doug O'Neill, the race was particularly gratifying. He was pleased that Excessivepleasure proved that he was more than just a sprinter. And while O'Neill ran four horses in stakes this weekend, including Avanzado who was a good second in the $2 million Golden Shaheen at the Dubai, World Cup, the WinStar was his only stakes win.

Excessivepleasure's next race could come against Cal-breds in the $250,000 Snow Chief at Hollywood Park April 26, but O'Neill is also looking at the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs the same day. "I think a mile around one turn would be a perfect spot for him," O'Neill said.

Excessivepleasure, who is owned by Ty and Leroy Leatherman, was timed in 1:42.84 and returned $9.40. The $270,000 payday gave him a career bankroll of $442,502. Excessivepleasure now has a record of 5-3-2-0, including two stakes wins.

As for the Bob Baffert duo of Spensive and Apalachian Thunder, their trainer was pleased with the efforts of both, but non-committal about future prospects. Spensive is a big, long-striding colt with a steady closing kick who may appreciate longer distances.

"Right now I'm just going to take them home and regroup," Baffert said. "But with Spensive's stride, I'm thinking he might try the turf next out." The WinStar proved an unqualified success for Sunland as track records were set for attendance with 10,167 on hand as well as single race handle, with $479,120 bet on the feature.