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