03/15/2014 4:09PM

Sunland Park Derby attracts pair from Pletcher and Baffert barns

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Chitu (above) and his Bob Baffert stablemate Midnight Hawk will go after the 50 Kentucky Derby points for finishing first in the Grade 3 Sunland Park Derby next Saturday.

Trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher plan to invade New Mexico with two shippers each next Sunday for the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Park Derby. The 1 1/8-mile race could have as many as 10 horses when entries are drawn on Wednesday.

The Sunland Derby carries 85 preference points for the Kentucky Derby, to be divided among the first four finishers on a scale of 50-20-10-5. The Sunland Derby anchors a program of seven stakes worth a cumulative $1.4 million. The program includes the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, which offers its first four finishers points toward the Kentucky Oaks.

Midnight Hawk, the runner-up in the Grade 2 San Felipe, and Chitu, second in the Grade 2 Lewis, will represent Baffert. He said Mike Smith has the mount on Midnight Hawk, with Martin Garcia to ride Chitu.

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

Pletcher said Commissioner and Global Strike, both 1 1/8-mile winners at Gulfstream Park, are pointing for the Sunland Derby. He said John Velazquez will ride Commissioner, while Javier Castellano has the mount on Global Strike. Pletcher said he also plans to ship Lucky for You for the Sunland Oaks. The filly is to be ridden by Castellano. 

Flights are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tanzanite Cat is a possible for the Sunland Derby, his trainer, Cody Autrey, said Saturday, after the horse breezed a half-mile in a bullet 48.20 seconds at his Oaklawn Park base. Tanzanite Cat won the $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Jan. 20, and was fifth last out in the Grade 3, $300,000 Southwest.

“We’re probably going to enter him, see what it looks like, then make a plan from there,” Autrey said. “He worked really good. If we like our draw and everything goes good, then that’s probably where we’ll run.”

Autrey said Tanzanite Cat worked in company just after the renovation break at Oaklawn. Taylor Radimer, part of the clocking staff at Oaklawn, had the horse covering his final quarter in 23.20 seconds and galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.60. Tanzanite Cat worked under jockey Norberto Arroyo, Jr.

Other horses Sunland officials consider possible for the race include Bourbonize, an allowance winner at Oaklawn who was sixth in the Southwest; Proceed, Rebranded and Ima Happy Strike, who ran one-two-three in the $120,000 Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland; F J Uncle Vic, winner of the $50,000 Allen’s Landing over seven furlongs at Sam Houston; Lawly’s Goal, the runner-up in the $75,000 Turf Paradise Derby; and Garen, a maiden special weight winner at Santa Anita.

Sunland has two special events in its Signature Room on Sunland Derby Day, said Dustin Dix, the track’s director of racing operations. There will be a meet and greet with the cast of the Mine That Bird movie “50 to 1” starting at 10 a.m., while Jay Privman, national correspondent for Daily Racing Form, will conduct a handicapping seminar beginning at 11 a.m.

A portion of “50 to 1” was shot at Sunland Park, where Mine That Bird was based prior to his 2009 win in the Kentucky Derby.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman

RICKY More than 1 year ago
Do i hear "100 to 1"?
delcrone More than 1 year ago
I'll take Rebranded at 50+ to 1 :)
Sir Barton the First More than 1 year ago
4 bums and some mules trying to get in the derby. So sad.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Nobody is sending Derby contenders here. You send speedballs here to skim along that lightning fast strip.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Mine that bird. Plum Pretty oaks winner. Say you are wrong.
russell More than 1 year ago
Bob- It worked for Animal Kingdom. He won the Spiral at TP and then didnt run until the Ky Derby.
Bob Welde More than 1 year ago
no the joke is if u win at turfway park or keenland n a big 3 yr old race ur n u don't even have 2 win on dirt that's a JOKE
Walter More than 1 year ago
This is really just a $800,000 nx1. I wish I had a good 3yo, it's easy money. Probably why Baffert always finds 1 or 2 to run here each year.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
Huge purse and incentive to run but location/track are cause for pause. It would be very appealing as an owner of a talented 3 year old but only 1 can win.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
Up to four could possibly make the Derby from this one race and that is what should give cause for pause.
The Truth More than 1 year ago
Even Govenor Christie would make this track look fast..
tony More than 1 year ago
what a joke the track runs trash all year and they get a win and your in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes, they run trash that ships to Santa Anita and beats up on that trash! They attract good fields and have a nice 800K stakes.
Carl Cuminale More than 1 year ago
The race usually produces formidable contenders, not to mention that 50-1 winner a few years back. The track puts up the purse, why begrudge them their day to have a Derby prep.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
I assume you're joking when you say "formidable contenders."
Carl Cuminale More than 1 year ago
2010 Sunland winner Endorsement would have been one the derby favorites had he not been scratched a couple of days before with an injury while training.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
you don't know what you are talking about, next to Santa Anita and Del Mar it's the best in the west.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
The Sunland Park Derby sticks out like an ugly thumb on the Derby qualifying schedule. Still can't believe this race is a win and your in or hit the board and you're probably in the Derby. This was Bafferts playground for a Derby and Oaks entry but appears Pletcher will not let him have to himself this year. Turns this from a two horse race into a four horse race. If your horse has foot issues scratch him, and after the race he might anyway. Both of Bafferts horses, Govenor Charlie and Midnight Lucky both developed foot and ankle issues after their races last year. I wonder how many records will fall this year on that concrete.
sgvoak . More than 1 year ago
hey don't forget shakin it up got injured there also for baffert
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey, don't forget Mine That Bird won the derby after racing at Sunland.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
Hey don't forget the only race he ever won in the US was the Kentucky Derby.
Jim More than 1 year ago
Way too many of the "good" horses are with too few trainers.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
A serious problem I have been harping about but some people don't seem to see it. Realistically is a threat to racing and wagering