03/26/2017 9:00PM

Hence earns Kentucky Derby berth by winning Sunland Derby

Coady Photography
Hence, with Alfredo Juarez Jr. aboard, scores by 3 3/4 lengths in the Sunland Derby.

Hence put himself in the gate for the Kentucky Derby on Sunday, when he closed from next to last for a 3 3/4-length win over Conquest Mo Money in the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby. He also gave his New Mexico-based rider, Alfredo Juarez Jr., the richest win of his career.

“I’ve won some good races, but this one is very special,” said Juarez, who was aboard for Calumet Farm and trainer Steve Asmussen.

Hence earned 50 eligibility points for the Kentucky Derby, which is the goal for the horse, said Asmussen. The path Hence will take in the six weeks leading up to the race will be determined, Asmussen said when asked if Hence would train up to Kentucky Derby.

“We’ll see how he comes out of this race and have discussions with [Calumet],” Asmussen said. “The plan will be to put him in the Derby in the best shape possible.”

Hence ($23.60) broke last in the field of 11, and was content to settle at the back of the pack as Hedge Fund set the pace over Bronze Age, the favorite who stumbled badly at the start. Hedge Fund took the field through an opening quarter-mile in 22.26 seconds, a half-mile in 45.72, and six furlongs in 1:10.22.  Conquest Mo Money took the lead soon afterward, as Hence advanced, drew alongside that previously undefeated rival at the top of the stretch, then pushed past him and darted clear to cover 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.10.

“When we got to the quarter pole I hit him left handed and he started to roll,” said Juarez. “I got so emotional. I was just enjoying every step of the way.”

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“We had a lot of confidence in Alfredo,” said Asmussen.

 The win was the second career victory for Hence, who accounted for a maiden special weight route in impressive fashion Jan. 16 at Oaklawn. He advanced to the track’s Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest but finished seventh. Hence then targeted the Sunland Derby.  

“We’re very excited about the win,” Asmussen said. “He’s shown talent. He’s a quality 3-year-old. I’m glad Calumet gave me another shot with him [in a Kentucky Derby prep.] I think he rewarded all of us.”

In addition to Kentucky Derby points, Hence picked up a first-place check of $480,000. He is a homebred son of Street Boss and the A.P. Indy mare Floating Island.

Conquest Mo Money and Hedge Fund, who won a photo for third over Irap, are not nominated to the Triple Crown.  The Sunland Derby offered Kentucky Derby points to its first four finishers on a scale of 50-20-10-5.