03/18/2015 2:45PM

Tiznow R J may like surface switch for Sunland Derby

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Trainer Steve Asmussen is hoping a change in surface will help bring out the best in Tiznow R J. He believes the horse, coming off a rare off-the-board finish, is a talented individual, and Tiznow R J will get a shot to prove it Sunday in the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Park Derby.

Tiznow R J was one of eight runners entered Wednesday in the 1 1/8-mile race, which along with the $200,000 Sunland Oaks will anchor the richest program of the meet at Sunland Park in New Mexico.

Tiznow R J gave a glimpse of his potential in December, when he won a maiden special weight route by 13 1/4 lengths at his home track of Fair Grounds. He proceeded to run third in the Grade 3 Lecomte in his stakes debut in January but did not run back to those performances last month when prominent for much of the Grade 2 Risen Star before dropping back to finish seventh. The effort baffled Asmussen.

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“I got to believe it’s the surface,” he said. “He trains like a real horse.”

So, race-day footing is being changed for Tiznow R J, who will be making his first over the Sunland Park track Sunday. The horse races for Mike McCarty.

The Sunland Derby will go as the 11th race on a 12-race program that starts at 12:55 p.m. Mountain, said track official Dustin Dix. The Sunland Park Oaks, which drew eight fillies, will be the ninth race. Dix said post time for the Sunland Derby is scheduled for 5:40 p.m.

Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form will be giving a handicapping seminar at Sunland on Sunday. The card will be streamed live at www.drf.com.

Sunland puts on a Saturday night gala in advance of the Sunland Derby, and this year’s speaker will be Wes Welker, a professional football player and horse owner whose best runners have included graded stakes winner Undrafted. The event raises funds for United Blood Services.

A flight bringing horses from California for Sunday’s races is due to arrive Friday morning, according to Dix.