03/23/2014 9:17PM

Sunland Park Derby: Chitu heads one-two finish for Baffert

Coady Photography
Chitu, ridden by Martin Garcia, scores by 2 1/4 lengths as the favorite in the Sunland Park Derby.

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. – Chitu looks like a Quarter Horse, what with his big, blocky behind. And he’s bred like a sprinter, being by Henny Hughes. But when it comes to going two turns, what he shows on the outside is not reflected by what’s on the inside, for this is a horse whose determination has carried him quite far.

How far? Perhaps as far as the May 3 Kentucky Derby, for on Sunday at Sunland Park, Chitu  earned 50 points – oh, and a $400,000 winner’s share – by holding off stablemate Midnight Hawk to take the Grade 3, $800,110 Sunland Derby before a track-record crowd 18,642.

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

Both Chitu and Midnight Hawk are trained by Bob Baffert, who won this race last year with Govenor Charlie and has now won it three times overall. Martin Garcia, who rode Chuti, also was on Govenor Charlie.

Chitu ($5.80) was favored based on his second-place finish behind the highly regarded Candy Boy, and in front of Midnight Hawk, in the Robert Lewis Stakes on Feb. 8 at Santa Anita. That 1 1/16-mile race was his first try around two turns after a pair of wins going six furlongs.

On Sunday, he stretched out to 1 1/8 miles, rated behind front-running Garen for the first part of the race, surged to the lead entering the lane, and put away Midnight Hawk before drawing away late to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

Midnight Hawk finished 4 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Commissioner, who stumbled at the start and, according to jockey John Velazquez, pulled off a front shoe.

Rebranded was fourth and was followed, in order, by Bourbonize, Global Strike, Garen, Tanzanite Cat, and Lawly’s Goal.

Chitu completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:47.88.

“He just keeps getting better and better,” said Jim Barnes, the Baffert assistant who saddled his stable’s runners here on Sunday.

Chitu started from the outside in the field of nine. Garcia said that post gave him options that he was happy to utilize.

“That was a really good post for my horse,” Garcia said. “If I was inside, I probably would have rushed to be closer. Today, I didn’t have to hurry. I let him break, then I sit chilly.”

Garen, starting from post 2, set off for the lead and posted fractions of 23.24 seconds for the opening quarter and 46.46 for the half-mile. Chitu stalked him from the outside, and then Midnight Hawk engaged those two while three lanes wide and put his head in front at the six-furlong mark in a swift 1:09.60.

Garen yielded, and then Chitu and Midnight Hawk began to widen on their opposition. Midnight Hawk and Chitu were right together into the lane, but then Midnight Hawk began to wilt, and Chitu went on with it.

Midnight Hawk has lost three straight, but was second to California Chrome in his prior start in the San Felipe, and third behind Candy Boy and Chitu in the Lewis.

“I don’t know why he wants to lay in on horses,” said Mike Smith, who rode Midnight Hawk. “He doesn’t do that in the morning. I’ve tried a little bit of everything, too. But it’s not like he’s running bad races. He keeps running well against horses who run the race of their lives.”

Chitu is owned by Susan Chu, who races as Tanma Corporation. Bloodstock agent Donati Lanni bought Chitu on her behalf for $300,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Company sale in March 2013. He has now earned $501,800.




Mark D More than 1 year ago
Baffert is the KING......at spotting his horses. He can take very good horses and make GREAT $$$$ with them. But neither of these two are good enough to win the Derby.
David Robinson More than 1 year ago
maybe and maybe not. but my 200-1 odds are looking a hell of a lot better right now then the suckers who took anywhere from 10-1 to 20-1 on sucker horses like top billing, honor code, shared belief, strong mandate, and Havana. 3 of which were already layed up with ailments and STILL taking action as late as February. I made three future bets..........candy boy at 60-1, Bayern at 75-1, and chitu at 200-1. I will take my chances from here!!
Mark D More than 1 year ago
I like your style!!! Only way to make money as a gambler, is to take advantage of VALUE when you see it.
AzHorsePlayer More than 1 year ago
That's my point exactly...Poly & Turf shouldn't be considered and yes that includes the all might Keenland for the Blue Grass...the KY Derby is run on real dirt so I have no problem with Sunland or Tampa Bay with a horse qualifying...just watch the replay of the Spiral, I'm telling you the winner looked like he was running in quicksand.
Kenneth Porteous More than 1 year ago
Wait a minute, didn't Animal Kingdom win off poly prep?
edb More than 1 year ago
And Secretariat won by 31 lengths. Accidents do happen. Don't hold your breath for the next one. More derby fillers that really don't belong. With so many big hitter horses dropping out, derby is going to be a receding hairline after a mile with so many rabbits dropping back. I need a closer who can get around tiring horses. Strong Mandate would run into them, Tapiture would try to knock them down. Still so wide open. How many more foot injuries coming?
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
MTB was mostly a synthetic runner . Pioneer was mostly synthetic . Street Sense was 2nd in the Bluegrass . Lookin @ Lucky . Dullahan. You guys and your wives tales of woe :)
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
With the Derby picture the way it is now I wouldn't give up on Commissioner. I bet Chitu today and thought he was one of the safer plays of the day, but Commissioner had a ton of trouble out of the gate and threw a shoe, yet was still reaching and running past the wire. Cairo Prince has been slow and I don't trust anything coming from Gulfstream. I know he hasn't done anything wrong, but look back at his competition and times on a track that has been producing rack records everyday. Candy Boy looks legit and I'm rooting for Art Sherman. His horse could be any kind.
RICKY More than 1 year ago
Bob Baffert and Pletcher can try and get half the field for the derby...There gonna need it with California Chrome being the derby winner... and Tapiture and Candy Boy in good second spot..both trainers still behind the 8-ball..I dont think neither has a chance this year..
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
California Chrome took a while to recover from his last race. I won't be too sure if he doesn't win the SA Derby *which might be a good thing for him long term.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't mind Art Sherman just training him up to the derby. He has plenty of foundation.
RICKY More than 1 year ago
i agree..
RICKY More than 1 year ago
i dont think California Chrome is going to win the Santa Anita derby.. he doesnt need to exhaust himself trying to get points for a race he is already in. the race will be a gauge to sit back and see if he can rate at a longer distance, instead of anyways going to the lead. Tune-Up race.
Edward Nelson More than 1 year ago
California chrome is getting way too much credit. The horse won some cal bred stakes the year and the won his last race beating an overhyped baffert sprinter trying to go long. Hold the brakes on california chrome, cairo prince has much better credentials to back.
Cover2 More than 1 year ago
No, not yum brands for CC..............Heartbreak lane 1,234 yards
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
Watch out for Midnight Hawk in the Derby. This is a horse FINALLY being trained for stamina and fitness and not just qualifying points. In 2014 he has already won the Sham (1 mile-10 Pts), finished 3rd in the Lewis (1 1/16 mile -2pts), finished 2nd in the San Felipe (20pts) and then two weeks later finished 2nd in Sunland Derby (20 more points). 4 races already and probably one more (Santa Anita or Arkansas) this horse is fit and strong and being trained the way contenders used to be trained. Look at Ferdinand, Alysheba, Silver Charm, Real Quiet,, Charismatic etc. all had 4 or more 3 year old preps and when on Derby day, they were the fittest and kept going when others got tired. You can even go back farther to Secretariat, Riva Ridge, Affirmed, the Bid. But they were ready when it mattered. Allot of people point to the fragility of the modern horse. Sometimes I wonder if it is the horse or the way they are trained that has led to this trend. Stamina works are a thing of the past with the newer modern horsemen. 46.4 4f works so not get you 10 furlongs. 7/8 works and mile works do but too many trainers want those billets by their works. And TP wonders why he never wins the Derby. One last thought. So many trainers emphasize winning the preps that their horses are over the top for the Derby. Ferdinand, Silver Charm, Real Quiet and many others lost their last prep. Alysheba had one lifetime win. But the important thing was they were ready when it mattered. And history proved out how good these horses were over their careers. Am I guaranteeing Midnigjt Hwak winning. Far from it. As long as 20 horses enter any race there will be other factors to consider. But, if his last prep is respectable, you better. Include him in your exotics because he will be fit and ready to go.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
During the running of the Kentucky Derby you will jump off the couch with excitement as Midnight Hawk enters contention on the far turn. As they hit the eighth pole you will have already torn up your tickets. Although I agree with one thing, the best way to get a horse fit is to race him. But, this wasn't to get him fit, this was to get the second place money as Barnes said before the race he couldn't beat Chitu.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
i hope you're right. I know he is a quality horse .I've watched him very closely in all his races and he has talent but his head is not yet in the right place. He pulls early or gets headstrong when challenged then lays in on the leader.im not sure he gets a classic distance and i suspect his best would be on turf at a mile.if he had a different trainer he could be the next wise dan..you heard it here first.i touted the dan the same way before he became a turf monster.
redboy More than 1 year ago
Easiest exacta play of the prep season.Baffert1-2 Yet Bayern may be Baffert's best derby prospect . This weekends futures pool 3 is probably the last best op to get some good value on the Top 10 points leaders and a few new faces .
AzHorsePlayer More than 1 year ago
For all the people ripping this horse at least he is a true dirt horse running in the race unlike the horse that won the stakes at Turfway yesterday who Ramsey is going to enter in the derby...that horse has ZERO Chance to win the derby & every year the Ramsey's enter a horse that is just a race filler...when the horses hit the wire yesterday at Turway in the Spiral I was having a hard time wondering if I was watching the race in slow motion or not.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
Trainers, especially Baffert have used the Sunland Derby to gain entry to the Derby. No different with the Spiral. If you want to bash the Spiral, then the same to Sunland even if for slightly different reasons but the basic reason remains the same, to get enough points to get a second tier horse in the gate.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
What do you mean no different then the Spiral. Poly races shouldn't even be part of the point system. Now you have a horse with no chance taking a spot from a possible legit contender. Let give points to turf races as well. They need to equal the weights all year leading up to the derby and drop the poly races. I bet $50.00 win and place on Wee Miss Artie and he has no business getting points for that race. The point system is f'ed up.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
The Spiral is no different than the Sunland Derby in regards to gaining entry to the Derby is what I said. Bash the Spiral because it's poly, I get it, but bash the Sunland as well even if for slightly different reasons. Did I really have to recap that for you. One legit contender came from the Sunland, well if by legit you mean a horse that would have one win in this country and never win another race.
Tracy More than 1 year ago
I guess Ruler on Ice (Belmont winner) wasn't a contender?
dameian ramsay More than 1 year ago
Chitu gets better with every race he runs. Love that he can sit behind speed Then pounce on them
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Midnight Hawk has the breeding to handle the distance. Midnight Lute had breathing issues that were finally discovered in his second to last race, which was at a mile. He ran second at a mile and sixteenth and his worst race was at a mile and an eighth. Midnight Hawk's grand sire was a KD winner, Real Quiet. Midnight Hawk was a May foal, so he is doing really well considering he is two years 10 months old. He showed a lot of grit today, not that I am saying he will win the derby.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
So after all that, then what are you saying, that he's good up to 1 1/6? I love when a horse continues to tire in the lane losing repeatedly while losing ground to the winner, then says, just wait till the distances get longer.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
the distance is a question with this horse. His quality is not.the real problem its the attitude he is a bit of a goof in the turn pulling to join the leaders and then in the lane he lays in on the horse in front.he could be a miler or as i suspect a really good turf miler.but its also possible that if he figures out how to relax during the race he will have more for the finish and he has the bottom required he will be fit.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
If chitu is are derby winner I need to give up this game.
David Robinson More than 1 year ago
adios. have fun playing bingo.