03/19/2014 3:41PM

Sunland Park Derby draws field of nine; Commissioner to add blinkers

Barbara D. Livingston
Commissioner will try to bounce back from a sixth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth in Sunday's Sunland Park Derby.

Commissioner, who earlier this year won an allowance over the well-regarded Top Billing, will add blinkers for the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Park Derby on Sunday, said his trainer, Todd Pletcher. The horse was one of nine entered in the 1 1/8-mile stakes when the field was drawn Wednesday. Others set to start include the Pletcher-trained Global Strike; Southern California invaders Midnight Hawk, Chitu, and Garen; and local stakes winner Rebranded.

The Sunland Derby is one of seven stakes on the richest program of the meet. The races are worth a cumulative $1.4 million. The card includes the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, which lured a field of six, including Grade 2 Santa Ynez winner Awesome Baby from Santa Anita and Pletcher trainee Lucky for You from Gulfstream Park.

In his last race, Commissioner finished sixth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22. One start earlier, he won a 1 1/8-mile allowance over Top Billing, a leading Kentucky Derby hopeful who was recently sidelined.

[Sunland Derby: Get PPs, watch Sunday's card live]

Following the Fountain of Youth, Commissioner’s rider suggested he be fitted with blinkers.

“We’re just looking for a little more focus,” Pletcher said. “John Velazquez had ridden him last time and thought they might be helpful. We breezed him in them, felt like we noticed a favorable result, and we’ll give them a try.”

Velazquez has the mount on Commissioner, who races for WinStar Farm.

Global Strike, a maiden special weight winner at 1 1/8 miles last out at Gulfstream, is to be ridden by Javier Castellano. He is owned by Stonestreet Stable.

“Both horses are training well, and each horse complements the other’s style,” Pletcher said. “Global Strike has shown a little bit of speed, and Commissioner wants to settle midpack.”

Chitu, the runner-up in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis; Midnight Hawk, who was second in the Grade 2 San Felipe; and Garen, a maiden special weight winner last out at Santa Anita, all flew in Wednesday morning, said Sunland official Dustin Dix.

Bob Baffert has given the mount on Chitu to Martin Garcia, while the trainer has named Mike Smith on Midnight Hawk. Victor Espinoza has the mount on Garen for trainer Peter Miller.

The complete Sunland Derby field, in post-position order, is: Bourbonize, Ramon Vazquez; Garen; Commissioner; Global Strike; Tanzanite Cat, Norberto Arroyo Jr.; Lawly’s Goal, Irwin Rosendo; Midnight Hawk; Rebranded, Ry Eikleberry; and Chitu.

The Sunland Derby offers its first four finishers a total of 85 preference points for the Kentucky Derby, divided on a scale of 50-20-10-5. The race will go as the 11th on a 12-race Thoroughbred card that begins at 12:55 p.m. Mountain. Post for the Sunland Derby is 5:40 p.m., said Dix.

Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
Chitu should win this. Second time long.
Tony Pennington More than 1 year ago
im just excited to have a horse in the race. win loose or draw im gonna enjoy every second in the sun. if not for horse racing, and more importantly rebranded, i dont know how i would have made it through the divorce i just went through. these horses gave me a new lease on life and im looking forward to sunday.
Sir Barton the First More than 1 year ago
Was this track around in my day, anybody
Oz Nelson More than 1 year ago
If your day started over a half a century ago the answer is yes.(1959)
Sir Barton the First More than 1 year ago
1919 so No.
Oz Nelson More than 1 year ago
Playing the point system is like playing a game of chess you have to make the right moves to get your horse to checkmate into the Kentucky Derby. Under the old system Mine That Bird had already qualified for the Kentucky Derby before he ever set a foot onto Sunland Park. The only thing he did was to help put Sunland on the map which later became a graded stakes race which later Churchill change to the point system. If it wasn't for casino tracks half the tracks would be closed in the USA, it is what is you have to learn to live with it say hello to Hollywood or should I say Goodbye.
Scott Scheib More than 1 year ago
I believe this horse will only get better. His confirmation and ability to go the distance of the derby sets up for him if he races. Shipping him to Sunland gets another key prep with plenty of time to rest before the big one.
Nick More than 1 year ago
didn't Real Quite win a race that was supposed to be restricted to NM breds and the purse was huge.....also they have the cash because they have slots.....I have all but give up on slots at Turf Paradise...if only the republicans would open there eyes and see the projected revenue....the grandstand is falling apart and slots would be so beneficial..
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Think Real Quiet ran third in a big money race at Santa Fe Downs in NM as a two year old.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Real Quiet made his early mark by Chasing his stablemate Indian Charlie on the speed favouring SA surface. Once they got him to the more fair east coast tracks and more distance the rest was history
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
I like Commissioner and he looks to have talent, but that last race was just bad. I know it was Gulfstream, but he won there as well. Maybe the blinks help, but he looks to be up against Sunday.
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
While it's true Sunland Park is not in the same league as some of the well known tracks on both coasts, they nevertheless have increased the quality of their programs. They have upped their purses to attract a better quality of horse flesh. For the past few years Steve Asmussen has had a string of horses at Sunland. Not every horse can race at Belmont, Santa Anita or Gulfstream. That is where tracks like Sunland Parks Lone Star, Louisiana Downs among others fit in.As someone who raced at Sunland, Ruidoso Downs, Turf Paradise and other Midwest tracks, I feel some of the comments are silly. How the point system has been set up, I don't know. That, in my opinion needs to be tweaked. I think calling one another names is inappropriate for voicing an opinion. BTW, we won the 1981 edition of the Sunland Derby when the purse was 15k............how times have changed!
Paul More than 1 year ago
Commissioner comes off a horrible race and should be an overlay. An article like this makes him an underlay. Thanks.
Scott Scheib More than 1 year ago
Well said, I like this horse. He is a big, strong animal that can go the derby distance. He still is developing. Definitely worth a play in gimmicks in May.
zkid9914 More than 1 year ago
Commissioner is there Belmont horse. JJ wins this with Global Strike.
BoughPena More than 1 year ago
Midnight Hawk has the edge over Chitu since He just ran 15 days ago. I expect MH to go to the lead and never look back. They both ran well last time they faced. Any fractions near what MH ran against California Chrome should make the lead in a speed-favoring track like Sunland Park.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
Chitu is faster than Midnight Hawk. The question is whether they opt to send.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
Chitu should be long gone.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
Please make this a DRF plus article so I'm not enticed to read about the Sunland Derby.
JJIII2 More than 1 year ago
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
Awesome Ed!
Jim Fields More than 1 year ago
Arrogance must be in your genes, but so must be intelligence. For your information, a Kentucky Derby winners previous race happened to be this race, and the wisdom of the points awards givers had enough forethought to give this race as much legitimacy as any other pre derby race and for your edification, two of the leading trainers, in the world, thought fit to fly some horses there and run to get points. You must be related to the original horse "Mr Ed", but you must be the couzin of the back half
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
Wow Jim, calm down. I appreciate your insight Captain Obvious. You're right, and thank you, intelligence is in my genes. The horse you refer to ran fourth in this race, he never won another race, the Derby was the only race he won in the US. The obvious is the two leading trainers, the two that plan their programs around getting to the Derby are of course running for the points to load the Derby gate. The not so obvious is that this race should not be worth the points that it is which could and might bump a better horse not willing to ship so far and come back with foot problems. Such a shame intelligence is not in your genes. Get a sense of humor.
Tracy More than 1 year ago
I guess we should fold up all race tracks except Santa Anita, Del Mar, Saratoga, Belmont, and Aquaduct.Of course only open Churchill and Pimlico for 1 race in May
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
So because I don't think it's worth the points it offers to get in the Derby, you think I said it should fold up? Don't disparage me for the words you want to put in my mouth.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
I took it for what it was. A funny comment and laughed. Still. Nice one!
Grazyna Mianska More than 1 year ago
Spot on.
Paul More than 1 year ago
While less of a mockery than the past system these point races should be rated differently. I said it over 10 years ago. 2 year old, turf and synthetic races don't count. Races under a mile don't count. That way winning the summer 2 year old races, the bc or non points races don't make contenders out of also rans. Some of these tracks should not be awarded the amount of points. The last race at Keeneland is worth 10 to the winner and that's what the two races this week are worth. They shouldn't be basing it on time of year. Using this method will eventually have a horse as a non raced 2 year old and maiden until as late as February can win the spiral or sun land and make the derby. The races should be judged. Not by the trainers that between two of them have over 100 horses nominated and are using the same one or two jockeys on their horses and clogging up the system. It's ridiculous. Smith has a minimum of 4 horses and 3 will run on weeks not against each other. To say the least. The trainers are worse. Most of these horses will be running in opt claimers next year like every other year for the last twenty. Let alone the trainers that finally say he's a sprinter or a turf horse.
Steve More than 1 year ago
Mr. Ed - if you don't want to read it, don't read it, show some self-control. But don't ruin it for the rest of the people who are interested and don't want to pay for articles that should be free
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
Get a sense of humor Steve. If you want to beg for the DRF crumbs have at it. If I want to make fun it, I'll have at it.
raymond More than 1 year ago
When was the last time a starter in the Sunland Derby hit the board in the Ky. Derby. I'd venture to say about never.
Tracy More than 1 year ago
Out of the last 4 Sunland Derbies, there have been no fewer than SEVEN horses go on to win Graded Stakes races. I believe at least 2 were G1's
Eric Clemenic More than 1 year ago
Raymond, wake up! Mine That Bird ran 3rd in the Sunland Derby. HELLO?!
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
He didn't run third, I believe he ran fourth, but knew it wouldn't take long for someone to get on Raymond for that. He also never won another race and the Derby was the only race he won in the US.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
And most likely you're talking about Baffert horses that went on to southern Cal wins. Other than of course Mine that Bird who won the Derby but nothing else.
Jesus More than 1 year ago
Ruler on Ice ran 3rd in 2011 Sunland Derby then won the Belmont. Daddy Nose Best from 2012 is doing well. Thors Echo won the race when it was called the Winstar Derby back in 2005 before the Sunland Derby got graded and he went on to win a Breeders Cup race in 2006.. These were not Baffert horses and I believe did win outside of SoCal. Just thought I'd name some for you.
Sir Barton the First More than 1 year ago
Put it on them son. Put it on them.