03/21/2014 3:45PM

Sunland Park Oaks puts Awesome Baby, Baffert in spotlight

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Benoit & Associates
Awesome Baby won the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel at the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Sunland Park Oaks.

Awesome Baby will be favored to give her trainer, Bob Baffert, his fourth consecutive win Sunday in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks on the strength of her back-to-back graded stakes victories at Santa Anita. She is part of a six-horse field for the 1 1/16-mile race which also drew Lucky for You, an impressive maiden special weight winner last out at Gulfstream Park, and Empress of Midway and D’ya Knowwhatimean, maiden winners in Southern California.

“It should be a good race,” said Baffert, who has won five runnings of the Sunland Oaks since it was inaugurated in 2003.

The Sunland Oaks, which carries 85 preference points for the Kentucky Oaks, is part of a card of seven stakes worth a total of $1.4 million. The card is the richest of the meet, and it is anchored by the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby.

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

Awesome Baby was one of the most impressive debut winners last summer at Del Mar, then was off the board in two Grade 1 stakes before launching her 3-year-old season with a half-length win in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez at 6 1/2 furlongs on Jan. 4. Awesome Baby then rolled to a 2 3/4-length win in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel at 1 1/16 miles in her most recent start March 1.

“Her first out was really impressive, then for some reason she took a step backward,” Baffert said. “We gave her a little time, freshened her up. Her last two races have been really great. She seems like she handled the stretch-out really well last time and we’ll give her another [route race] here in the Sunland Oaks.”

Mike Smith has the mount for Kaleem Shah Inc. Awesome Baby will break from post 5.

Lucky for You was a five-length winner of a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Gulfstream in her third career start Feb. 1. She earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 81, which is the co-highest last-race Beyer in the Sunland Oaks, a distinction she shares with Awesome Baby.

“She kind of broke through with her best performance last out, which was her first attempt around two turns,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Lucky for You for Michael Tabor.

The field includes Let Her Dance, who goes for Double Eagle Ranch and trainer Chip Woolley, connections portrayed in the movie “50 to 1” about 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.

Bill Thomas: Baffert again

Baffert will send out Patriot’s Voyage in the $75,000 Bill Thomas Memorial, a 6 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up. Patriot’s Voyage will be making his first start since May 5, when he won an optional $62,500 claiming sprint at Hollywood Park with a Beyer Speed Figure of 106.

“He’s doing really well,” Baffert said. “I’d been trying to get a race at Santa Anita. I couldn’t get him in. He’s training really well. The local homeboys are pretty tough, [but] he should run well.”

Sunland-based Wine Police will be making his first start since running eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 2. He goes for trainer Henry Dominguez, who also will send out Isn’t He Clever, who last year set a track record in the Bill Thomas. Isn’t He Clever won the local prep March 4.

Adding further depth to the six-horse field are stakes winners L.A. Weekend and Warren’s Knockout.

In other stakes on Sunday:

◗ African Rose will be seeking her third straight win when she stretches back out to a mile to defend her title in the $75,000 Harry Henson Handicap.

◗ The undefeated My Bikini Fell Off will be chasing her third win when she makes her stakes debut in the $85,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks.

◗ Tricky R. eyes her fourth straight win when she starts in the $85,000 La Coneja, a 5 1/2-furlong race for fillies and mares bred in New Mexico.

◗ The stakes action opens in the fifth race with the $85,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby.

Mine That Bird on hand

Mine That Bird, who parlayed a fourth-place finish in the Sunland Derby to paydirt in the Kentucky Derby, will be here Sunday to promote a new movie chronicling his rise to stardom. The film “50 to 1” opened in New Mexico on Friday. Jim Wilson, the Academy Award-winning producer behind the movie, and actor Christian Kane, who portrays co-owner Mark Allen, will be among the cast and crew members meeting with the public in the Signature Show Room at 10 a.m. Mountain. Kane will sing the national anthem Sunday.

◗ Jay Privman, national correspondent for Daily Racing Form , will give a free handicapping seminar in the Signature Show Room at 11 a.m.

◗ There will be live streaming video of the entire card Sunday at www.drf.com.