Updated on 03/27/2013 9:12AM

Sunland Derby: Govenor Charlie comes through with track-record performance

Coady Photography
Govenor Charlie, under Martin Garcia, proves much the best as a five-length winner in the Sunland Derby.

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. – Completing a blockbuster day at Sunland Park for trainer Bob Baffert, owner Mike Pegram, and the sire Midnight Lute, Govenor Charlie cruised to a five-length victory on Sunday in the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby.

A little more than a half-hour earlier, Baffert and Pegram scored in the Sunland Park Oaks with the filly Midnight Lucky, like Govenor Charlie progeny of Midnight Lute.

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

“It was a great day,” Baffert said from his home in California, where he watched the race while letting assistant Jim Barnes handle the chores here.

Govenor Charlie ($4.60) was sent off the favorite despite having just two prior starts, and just one win, that against maidens at Santa Anita on Feb. 17. The form of that race was validated when the second-place finisher, Footbridge, came back to win, and then Govenor Charlie tipped his hand further last Monday, when he appeared to outwork Shakin It Up, Baffert’s other Sunland Derby runner, in a team drill at Santa Anita.

“He’s been training well. He’s improving,” Baffert said.

Shakin It Up finished fourth after trailing early in the nine-horse field. Show Some Magic was second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of Abraham.

Stormdriver was fifth and was followed, in order, by Mudflats, Saint Prado, Dry Summer, and Just Win Baby.

Govenor Charlie pressed the early pace while three paths wide, advanced to the lead with three furlongs to go, and pulled away down the lane.

“I felt like I had a lot of horse the whole way,” said winning rider Martin Garcia. “He’s a horse who feels like he waits on company, but when I asked him, he took off.”

The track at Sunland was lightning fast on Sunday. Govenor Charlie was one of three horses who set track records. He completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.54, beating the previous mark of 1:48 1/5 set in 1961.

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

Govenor Charlie earned 50 points under the system put in place this year by Churchill Downs to determine eligibility to the May 4 Kentucky Derby should the field oversubscribe its maximum of 20 runners, pretty much the norm these days.

“I got my first 50-point horse!” Baffert said after losing stakes races worth 50 points to the winner in recent weeks with Flashback and Super Ninety Nine.

Pegram bred and owns Govenor Charlie, who is out of the unraced Storm Cat mare Silverbulletway, a daughter of Silverbulletday, a Kentucky Oaks and two-time Eclipse Award winner for Pegram.

Pegram was far more bullish about running Midnight Lucky in the Kentucky Oaks than he was 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.”