The Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby at 1 1/8 miles will go as the ninth race on a Sunland Park Sunday card that will feature over $1.5 million in purse money throughout the day. The winner of the Sunland Derby receives 50 Kentucky Derby points, which are crucial at this stage of the game because the 3-year-old crop is up in the air.
Several big-time trainers have come in to try to pick up a victory, including Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, Steve Asmussen, Doug O’Neill, and D. Wayne Lukas. Favoritism might come down to the Bob Baffert-trained Bronze Age and the Todd Pletcher-trained Hedge Fun. Both colts are coming off impressive maiden special weight scores, and both look to be ready to take the next step forward.
#3 Bronze Age – Trainer Bob Baffert has had a rough couple of weeks on the Kentucky Derby Trail. Mastery ran huge but was injured in the San Felipe two weeks ago, and American Anthem was a no show last week in the Rebel Stakes. He’ll look to turn it around this week with Bronze Age, who had an impressive win at Santa Anita last time out in a maiden special weight. This track favors speed in a huge way, so that should give Bronze Age a big advantage today. His inside draw will most likely put him on the lead if he breaks well, and I think he can take the field wire-to-wire. You can’t keep Baffert down long: he’ll look to have a huge weekend, with Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup as well.
Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers
#2 Hedge Fund – Here’s another Pletcher entry in a Kentucky Derby prep that looks to have a chance! Pletcher could have as many as five horses in the starting gate on May 6 this year, and a win by Hedge Fund could push that number up even further. Last time out, Hedge Fund arrived on the scene with a nice, four-length win at Gulfstream Park in a maiden special weight. He has the look of a horse that could improve again today, but his jockey situation is a little sketchy. Javier Castellano rode the horse last time out, but he’s now on Shareholder’s Value, while Jose Ortiz takes the mount on Hedge Fund.
#9 Hence – I’m excited to see him entered here, as he’s been a horse crush of mine for a little while now. Two races back, he was the winner of an eventful Oaklawn Park maiden special weight, where he nearly jumped the fence and still won. Based on that effort, I thought he’d run well in the Southwest Stakes last time out, but he was a disappointing seventh in that race. I still believe the talent is there with this horse, and I also think he’s got a great chance to turn it around today. This race is much easier than the aforementioned Southwest Stakes.
#5 Irap – At this point, this 0-for-6 maiden looks to be the type that, no matter what race he’s in, he seems to run to his competition. Last time out, he was second in the Mine that Bird Derby, and two races back, he was second to Royal Mo in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. He also ran second to Mastery as a 2-year-old. You’d be crazy to play this horse to win, but you’d also be crazy not to put him in your tris and supers.
#7 Kimbear – Must respect these connections, and this here is coming off an impressive maiden special weight win at Santa Anita last time out. His two best races have come on the dirt as his only loss over the surface came to the highly thought of Iliad. I’m a little skeptical of the distance today which is the only reason I but him in the “Exotic Plays” instead of the “Horse to Use in Multi Race Wagers.”
#6 Dilettante – This is D. Wayne Lukas’ best shot to make the Kentucky Derby, but he looks like a long shot to me. Last time out gives you a little hope, as he finished fifth in a pretty tough Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. That effort won’t be good enough to win today’s race, but it at least gives him a shot to hit the board. To do anything more, he’ll have to run better than he ever has before.
#12 Conquest Mo Money – It’s all positives for this horse so far as he jumps up in class today. He’s 3-for-3 lifetime, and all three of those wins have come at Sunland Park. Last time out, he won local prep for this race, the Mine that Bird Derby, by two lengths. If he can continue his progression, he can win today against all the shippers that are invading, but there is no doubt he’ll have to run faster than he ever has before. Hopefully running out of his own barn will continue to treat him well.
#4 Oxford Lane – He was a pretty decent Oaklawn Park maiden special weight winner last time out, but I’m skeptical that he’s ready for a race like this one right after breaking the maiden. Trainer Ken McPeek looks to be swinging for the fences here.
#1 Shareholder Value – Even thought Javier Castellano comes in to ride this horse, I don’t think I can support him. He hasn’t shown much in his last two stakes efforts, which has me wondering if he fits with this caliber of horses. He needs to do some proving today.
#8 Wine N Devine – He has a long list of second place efforts in smaller races on his resume. Last time out, he was fourth in the local prep race, so I don’t think he matches up all that well with this tougher group.
#10 Balandeen – He was highly regarded as a 2-year-old, mainly because he ran second to McCraken in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs. However, he struggled in the Delta Downs Jackpot, and last time out, he was a well-beaten third in the Bachelor Stakes. He needs to prove it to me before I can support him again.
#11 Total Tap – This Steve Asmussen runner seems to be getting a little bit better with each race, but I’m not sure the progression is happening quickly enough for him to compete today. He might be one to keep in mind for future races, though.