Post positions were drawn on Wednesday for the 15th running of the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) at one and one eighth miles. All Out Blitz was installed as the 4-1 morning line favorite in a very well balanced field of 12 runners for Sunday’s main event at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.
Simon Callaghan’s All Out Blitz will receive ample betting attention. He was a runner-up to McKinzie in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita and came in third in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes. In his maiden win at Los Alamitos last December, the Concord Point gelding beat Restoring Hope by a nose. All Out Blitz outran Southwest Stakes winner My Boy Jack in the Sham Stakes. Trainer Callaghan saddled 2015 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) Firing line who would go on to finish second to American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby. 2-time Sunland Derby winning jockey Martin Garcia will ride All Out Blitz.
Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen entered two quality three-year-olds in New York Central and Dream Baby Dream. New York Central has already carved out two wins from four starts. The Tapit colt recently won an allowance at Oaklawn Park going one and one-eighth miles, the same distance as the Sunland Derby (Gr. III). He has a strong cruising speed and broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last fall. The winner of $104,600 is owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and SF Racing. The grey roan colt has been working forwardly since his last Oaklawn win on Feb. 19 and is rated the 9-2 second choice. Ricardo Santana will ride New York Central.
Dream Baby Dream is an imposing runner with recent Oaklawn Park form. The Into Mischief colt is very fit coming off three straight third place finishes to stablemates New York Central and Title Ready and the Risen Star Stakes winner Bravazo. The battle tested sophomore is also a maiden winner from Churchill Downs and has a strong stretch kick. 2017 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winning jockey Alfredo Juarez, Jr. will ride the 10-1 shot.
Asmussen won the 2017 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) with Hence.
Prince Lucky represents the Todd Pletcher stable. The Pennsylvania bred son of Corinthian is a restricted bred stakes winner at Parx and is a 3-time winner from 5 starts. The winner of nearly $135,000 has a good looking form line and split the field in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 13. Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez will pilot the 6-1 morning line shot.
Hollywood Star rates a major threat for trainer Dale Romans. The Malibu Moon colt was graded stakes placed in both the Grade 3 Iroquois and Grade 2 Saratoga Special in 2017. He split the field in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Hall of Fame rider and winner of the 2010 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) Robby Albarado is the jockey. Hollywood Star is listed at 6-1 odds. Romans also sends Jerome Stakes runner-up Seven Trumpets. Luis Contreras rides the 6-1 shot.
Drayden Van Dyke will ride Peace for trainer Richard Mandella. The Violence colt is listed at 12-1 odds.
Jerry Hollendorfer has listed Kentucky Derby winning rider Mario Gutierrez to pilot Choo Choo (8-1 odds).
Local hopes rest with Todd Fincher’s Runaway Ghost. The Ghostzapper colt was a runway winner of the $100,000 Riley Allison Derby and finished second to Reride in the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby. Tracy Hebert rides the winner of $163,510. He is listed at 8-1 odds.
Here is the field in post-position order:
1. All Out Blitz – Martin Garcia, 4-1.
2. Dark Vader – Stewart Elliott, 15-1.
3. New York Central – Ricardo Santana, Jr., 9-2.
4. Hollywood Star – Robby Albarado, 6-1.
5. Peace – Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1.
6. Shane Zain – Terry Thompson, 15-1.
7. Prince Lucky – John Velazquez 6-1.
8. Seven Trumpets – Luis Contreras, 6-1.
9. Choo Choo – Mario Gutierrez, 8-1.
10. Dream Baby Dream – Alfredo Juarez, Jr., 10-1.
11. Runaway Ghost – Tracy Hebert, 8-1.
12. Fortified Effort – Ry Eikleberry, 20-1
The Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winner receives 50 points to the Kentucky Derby. Second place earns 20 points. Third place gets 10 points and fourth place earns 5 points.
The Sunland Derby (Gr. III) day card will feature a bonanza of stakes races worth over $1.5 million. The impressive undercard presents the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes, $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap, $100,000 New Mexico State University Handicap, $100,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby and $100,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks.
Local sensation Blamed is an early favorite for the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks at one and one-sixteenth miles. The three-year-old daughter of Blame rolled through confident victories in the $65,000 El Paso Times Stakes and the $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes. Joel Marr trains the sharp filly for long-time Sunland Park horse owner Cleber Massey.
Advance wagering on the entire Sunland Derby (Gr. III) day card begins on Saturday, March 24.
The Sunland Derby (Gr. III) is the 11th race in a 12 race program. Post Time is 12:30 p.m. El Paso Time. The Sunland Derby (Gr. III) goes at 5:15 p.m.