The 17th running of the $500,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) powers Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino’s biggest program on Sunday..Total purses for the elite day are nearly $1.8 million.
The featured 11th race in a stellar 12-race card loaded with six figure stakes will offer the winner a virtual ticket into the 2022 Kentucky Derby. The Sunland Derby (Gr. III) provides the winner with 50 qualifying points to the “Run for The Roses.” Second place receives 20 points. Third place earns 10 points and fourth gets 5 points.
Slow Down Andy, winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity last winter, is the 2-1 morning line favorite in the 8-horse field of the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) going one and one-eighth miles.
Trained by Doug O’Neill, Slow Down Andy, defeated eventual Mine That Bird Derby winner and Sunland Derby (Gr. III) finalist Straight Up G. back on October 9, 2021 in a maiden race at Santa Anita Park. The Nyquist colt was stakes placed at Del Mar last fall before winning the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity on December 11 over the highly touted Messier.
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Slow Down Andy rebounded nicely off a sixth place finish in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds last month to record a sizzling 6 furlong workout at Santa Anita Park on March 19 in 1:12.40 handily from the gate. The three-year-old used blinkers on in that workout and will wear them again in the Sunland Derby (Gr. III). The impressive work spurred O’Neill to chose the Sunland Derby over the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Slow Down Andy is owned by Reddam Racing, LLC.
O’Neill won the 2016 Kentucky Derby with Nyquist and has installed his top rider Mario Guiterrez to pilot Slow Down Andy. O’Neill has won two Sunland Derbies with Excessivepleasure in 2003 and Thor’s Echo in 2005. Slow Down Andy will break from post position #4.
Jim Rome Owns Straight Up G.
Owned by nationally acclaimed radio and television sports commentator Jim Rome, Straight Up G. returns for the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) and is listed as the second choice at 5-2 in the morning line. The California-bred son of Straight Fire owns the home field advantage having won the $100,000 Mine That Derby; over this surface last month.
The Richard Baltas trainee defeated a hard charging Bye Bye Bobby to win the Mine That Bird Derby by three parts of a length. The quick three-year-old packs a high cruising speed and has earned over $203,000 for Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing LLC. The pace enforcer will break from the outside #8 post position with Ricardo Gonzalez in the saddle.
Rome owned two-time Breeders’ Cup winner Mizdirection and Santa Anita Handicap winner Shared Belief.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will saddle two horses in the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) with Classic Moment and Costa Terra. Classic Moment was a game third in the Mine That Bird Derby. Joel Rosario rides the 7-2 third choice. 8-1 Costa Terra will be ridden by local riding hero Luis Negron.
Sunland Park’s leading trainer Todd Fincher counters with Bye Bye Bobby..Fincher won the 2018 Sunland Derby (Gr, III) with Runaway Ghost. Bye Bye Bobby won the Zia Juvenile in his career debut last fall and has raced determinedly in two stakes outings at Sunland Park this meet..
The gray son of Quality Road and former $870,000 Keeneland Sales Purchase finished fast closing seconds in both the Riley Allison Derby on January 30 and the Mine That Bird Derby on February 27. The dangerous 9-2 morning line choice will be ridden by Roimes Chirinos
Riley Allison Derby winner Pepper Spray, Turf Paradise Derby winner Chrome King and Fowler Blue round out the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) field. Post time for the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) is 5:15 p.m. El Paso time.
Sunland Oaks Prep for Kentucky Oaks
The enriched $300,000 Sunland Park Oaks is the 9th race at one and one-sixteenth miles on Sunday’s card, and the winner will receive 50 qualifying points to the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Borderplex and Island Fashion Stakes winner Miss Hard Knocks is the local hope for trainer Bart Hone and jockey Harry Hernandez.
Peter Eurton’s Queen of Thorns is coming off a second place run in the Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park last month. Triple Crown winning jockey Victor Espinoza will be in the saddle.
Joel Rosario rides Optionality for trainer Steve Asmussen.
The $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes at six and one-half furlongs is the 4th race. Southern California based Sharapova collides with Todd Fincher’s star mare Our Iris Rose in the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap (6th race) at one mile.
The $120,000 New Mexico State University Stakes starring Jet N G and Sea Emperor is the 7th race at one mile and 70 yards. Super star New Mexico-bred filly Bella Dona goes for her eighth career win in the $250,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks (8th race) at one and one-sixteenth miles. $100,000 Red Hedeman Mile winner Jet Set Warrior aims for his second straight stakes win in the $250,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby in the 10th race going one and one-sixteenth miles.
Advance wagering on the entire Sunland Derby (Gr. III) day card will be available on Saturday.