03/25/2013 1:49PM

Kentucky Derby berth assured, Govenor Charlie heads home

Coady Photography
Govenor Charlie, with Martin Garcia riding, wins the Sunland Derby, earning 50 eligibility points toward a Kentucky Derby berth.

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. – Govenor Charlie was set to return to California on Tuesday following his victory here Sunday in the Sunland Derby, a race that earned him enough points to secure a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs and ended the round of Derby preps worth 50 points to the winner.

The waters get even deeper now.

The Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, and United Arab Emirates Derby – all to be run on a sensory overload Saturday this weekend – begin the most lucrative round of preps for the Derby, races worth 100 points to the winner, with 40 to second. There’s going to be a lot of scoreboard-watching now that there are fewer than six weeks to the Derby.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

But the connections of both Govenor Charlie and Black Onyx, who won the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on Saturday, can relax for now. The 50 points earned by each under the new system put in place this year by Churchill Downs to determine eligibility should more than the maximum 20 runners enter the Derby – the norm in recent years – mathematically put them in the top 20, regardless of what happens in upcoming weeks.

“I got my first 50-point horse!” Bob Baffert, trainer of Govenor Charlie, said Sunday, referencing recent losses by heavy favorites Flashback in the San Felipe and Super Ninety Nine in the Rebel, both races worth 50 points to the winner.

Mike Pegram, who bred and owns Govenor Charlie, was initially circumspect regarding running in the Derby. Pegram is co-owner of the unbeaten filly Midnight Lucky, who a race earlier won the Sunland Park Oaks in a runaway to earn a starting spot in the Kentucky Oaks on May 3, and Pegram seemed far more bullish about running her in that race than Govenor Charlie in the Derby.

“The Derby’s the hardest race in the world to win,” Pegram said. “We all get Derby Fever, and I’ve got it right now.

“But losing the Derby’s no fun,” said Pegram, who owned 1998 Derby winner Real Quiet. “If he’s good enough, he’ll be there. It’ll be up to Bobby.”

Baffert said both Govenor Charlie and Midnight Lucky had come out of their races in good shape.

Govenor Charlie received a Beyer Speed Figure of 95 for his victory. Black Onyx got a 90. Midnight Lucky got a 94.

Martin Garcia, who rode Govenor Charlie, said he “felt like I had a lot of horse the whole way.”

“He’s a horse who feels like he waits on company, but when I asked him, he took off,” said Garcia, who will ride Code West for Baffert in the Louisiana Derby.

The track at Sunland was lightning-fast Sunday. Govenor Charlie set a track record of 1:47.54 for 1 1/8 miles, while Midnight Lucky set a record for 1 1/16 miles, and the sprinter Isn’t He Clever set a record for 6 1/2 furlongs. The previous track record for 1 1/8 miles, 1:48.20, was set in 1961.

Those weren’t the only records here. The all-sources handle of $3,820,986 for the 12-race card was a record for Sunland Park.

But the day could have ended tragically, if not for the remarkable job outrider Lupe Chavra did corralling a loose horse in the final race on the card, the race following the Sunland Derby.

Hastalavistatoots, starting from the inside post in a six-furlong race for $7,500 New Mexico-bred maiden-claimers, crashed through the temporary inner rail where the sprint chute merges with the main track. Hastalavistatoots dumped jockey J.C. Villanueva, then made a left-hand turn and started dashing the wrong way around the clubhouse turn.

Chavra, positioned on the main track near the turn’s six-furlong pole, was able to snare the loose horse quickly, averting the potential for a head-on collision with the remaining runners, or at least the likely abandonment of the race by track stewards. The runners finished the race without incident, and both Hastalavistatoots and Villanueva appeared to suffer no major injuries.

Oz Nelson More than 1 year ago
Let's just say for now the points needed to get in is 35.(+ or -) Eggs in baskets some with to many others with to little. Eample Shanghia Bobby won 2 of those baskets an a 2nd in another.The problem there are only jelly beans in the baskets if the points in the early races were double he would have 48 pts instead of 24pts. yes a bad race for him Goldencent or Lucky and they maybe out. Hopefully they all make it for it will make the derby more interesting Some horses maybe the Rodney Dangerfield of the race and some the George Hamiltons but as of right now I like them all till Eve of the K D.
John More than 1 year ago
Baffert is probably hoping one or two of his drop away before the Derby, maybe War Academy, Super Ninety Nine, just so he deost have 4 or 5 different owners to contend with on Derby day ! Probably the weeks biggest upset was that Brad Free selected a 9-5 shot, and not the 3-5 favorite last week ! I thought I was flashing back to a LSD relapse !
Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
your going have some good horses not make the derby because trainer and owners have passed up point races to let horses rest and now they only have one chance to get points for example if shanghia bobby doesnt run well in the florida derby or they have any bad luck like saddle slips takes a bad step this horse wont make the derby. i think next year were going see trainer try to get points sooner then rest
Mark More than 1 year ago
Any race picked out for Belvin after his bullet 5 f work ?
zerosumzen More than 1 year ago
The more I look at it, the more the present point system looks like somebody's brain fart. One G3 gets 10 points, another G3 gets 50 points. Meanwhile, a G2 gets no points. Why not just keep it simple and straightforward? Example. Win in G1 is 30 points, win in G2 is 20 points, and win in G3 is 10 points.
zkid9914 More than 1 year ago
Why would you run in a G 2 that gives no points. Just run some where else. Lots of options.
Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
im thinking the whole idea of the points system was to eliminate sprinters and turf horses. they couldnt change the fact races were graded and a graded sprint would get a horse earning towards the derby so they picked races to make point races
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
These preps are mostly 8.5 furlongs.....these are still basically sprints....
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
I will tell you what, Govenor Charlie demands respect. Those that think he caught a fast track and that that doesnt mean anything need to quickly realize that a wet Churchill track is lightning fast as well. Running on an off track at Churchill is equivalent to running on the sand at the beach after the tide went over it.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
The point system is actually a joke and makes it easier for horses to make the Derby. A few horses will have a stockpile of points while the others slime in with place and show honors. The biggest joke to me is that Will Take Charge has 60 something points. He has zero chance of winning the Derby but may go into it the points leader.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Deserves a spot after winning Rebel . Period.
nysteve27 More than 1 year ago
They can't figure it out because they wouldn't have anything to complain about. At the end of the day not much is going to change and at least 10 of the best 3yo in the country will be in the starting gate on May 4th.
Nick Kenyon More than 1 year ago
how in the world do u people figure 50pts guarantees a spot in the derby ? this new pts system is going to blow up in your face. all its going to do is ensure that some of the best 3yos in the country dont make the derby. how can u be so blind to the fact.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
50 and your in, period.
Eric More than 1 year ago
In fact, 30 points will probably get you in. Even if the Win and Place spots in all of the 100 point races went to horses who currently have 0 points, then the cut-off would be at 40 points. 50 will, without a doubt, get you in.
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
Nick, there are 20 spots. There are about seven 100 point to winner races, coming up 50 to 2nd. Chances are some horses that already have points will win those spots, and some with no or close to no points will score, too. That still leaves six spots in gate for those that already have 50 points. And it is CDI that has run all the past year models based on this year's point system and thinks 50 is a secure number to get in gate.
Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
THIS ISNT ROCKET SCIENCE. in the starting gate at the derby your going see horses with 150 points or more and your going have horses with around 30 points. theres only 6 or 8 100 point races and chances are horses that already have enough point to make the derby are going win the rest of the prep races so your not going see anything except the same horses get more points
Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
and the only way the best horses dont make the derby is because trainer put all there eggs in one basket and something goes wrong example a bad trip,sloppy track,jock falls off
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
My man, please look at the standings, then look at the remainder of the preps. Horses will be in with 20 points, maybe less. I can see very well. I think something is impairing your vision.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
17 horses currently have 20 or more points. If you have followed in the past, not EVERY horse stays on the Derby trail. Some will fall to injury, some will become sick, some will get other jobs and quit horse racing.
Steven Wells More than 1 year ago
Black Onyx should not rest on his 50 points until this next weekend is over. He is going to have the lowest earnings of the 50 point horses.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Horses will get into the starting gate with 20 points.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
His 50 is more than enough.
Julie Gregory More than 1 year ago
omg dude are you and me the only one out here that realize the new points system isnt going change much as far as horses getting into the derby. last year winning the sunland race was 60% of 800000 and a spot in the derby. why are these fools thinking its going take 100 points to get in. it would take something like every horse with more then 10 points not hitting the board in the rest of the point races for 25 to 30 points to not be eneough. i dont see that happening
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Julie, Here is the problem in no particular order. 1. People are not that smart. Itsmyluckyday (your next Kentucky Derby Winner, by the way) currently has 10 points. He can finish the Florida Derby in 3rd place and still be in the Derby.
Steven Wells More than 1 year ago
No way does a horse with 30 points make the derby. 17 horses have 20 points right now.
Ian Salon More than 1 year ago
Best bet in a while for me in the sunland race but Kentucky derby is a different story. Track was grease lightning.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
The bad news is you only got 6-5 in the Sunland, the good news you'll get at least 8-1 in the Derby, but if you bet him, you'll be even again and didn't want to be.
Tiny Montgomery More than 1 year ago
Why does this sound like "circular logic", or "paradoxical thinking", as many of your earlier statements have. Though I have noticed you've toned it down a bit lately, still just let the guy celebrate his win, he never suggested this was his Derby horse. I'd bet my right arm you wish you could be even in this great game.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
You shall now be known as One Tiny Arm Montgomery.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Dear Tiny Stalker Montgomery, You seem to have reading comprehension skills. I'm not going to explain it, but take notice of what follows "if" which is an old gambling joke. One must first understand before having conviction of their opinion. Loosen up, tighten your skirt, and get a sense of humor. Owner, breeder, long time fan and handicapper, Horse Cents