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Sunland Park Derby: Chitu heads one-two finish for Baffert
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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 .
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.
Chitu gets better with every race he runs. Love that he can sit behind speed Then pounce on them
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.
If chitu is are derby winner I need to give up this game.