03/22/2013 3:07PM

Sunland Oaks led by lightly raced but talented fillies

Shigeki Kikkawa
Midnight Lucky was impressive in her 7 1/4-length maiden victory.

Though they are lightly raced, the raw talent thus far displayed by Majestic River and Midnight Lucky make them the primary contenders against six other 3-year-old fillies in the $200,000 Sunland Oaks on Sunday at Sunland Park.

The Sunland Oaks, the 10th race on the 12-race card, virtually guarantees a starting berth in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks. Similar to the new points system put in place this year by Churchill Downs for the May 4 Kentucky Derby, points are needed for the Oaks should the field oversubscribe. There are 85 points on the line in the Sunland Oaks, and the 50 that go to the winner should be more than enough to guarantee a spot in the Oaks.

Yet the race came up light on stakes-quality talent. There are no graded stakes winners in the field, and one of the entrants is still a maiden. That’s what makes Majestic River and Midnight Lucky look so dangerous. They could be budding stars of this division. They hail from barns that have numerous runners, and appear to have been sent to a promising spot for their stakes debuts.

Majestic River heads west for trainer Todd Pletcher after a pair of races at Gulfstream Park, where she won her debut Jan. 11 before finishing second to one of the division’s elite, Emollient, in an allowance race at 1 1/16 miles, the same distance as the Sunland Oaks.

“She’s run a couple of quality races so far,” Pletcher said.

Majestic River has twice as much experience as Midnight Lucky, but there might not be anyone faster in this field than Midnight Lucky. She could not have been more impressive in her debut last month at Santa Anita, where she ran away from maidens for a 7 1/4-length win going 6 1/2 furlongs.

“We knew she could run, but that was pretty freaky, what she did,” said her trainer, Bob Baffert.

Jockey Rafael Bejarano is riding in the Sunland Derby, too, but the main reason he is traveling to New Mexico is for this filly, who turned in an effortless five-furlong workout on Monday at Santa Anita.

Still, Midnight Lucky has plenty of hurdles to clear. She is facing winners for the first time, is going two turns for the first time, and is shipping to an unfamiliar track.

“This is a good test for her,” Baffert said. “If she does well, it gives us a lot of options.”

Also shipping in from California is Unusual Way, second in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes last time out in her first start around two turns.

Of the local runners, Countess Curlin won the Island Fashion, Sunland’s major prep for the Sunland Oaks. Shesatopattraction, Infinitely, and Fraudulentfootnote, who futilely chased Countess Curlin in the Island Fashion on Feb. 24, are back for another go-round.

Canticle travels from Oaklawn, where she earned a maiden win sprinting, her lone victory in seven starts.

All carry 121 pounds.