Road to Derby: Firing Line Looks Tough in Sunland Derby

A field of seven line up in Sunday’s $800,000 Sunland Derby. (Photo courtesy of Sunland Park)

The Simon Callaghan trained Firing Line is the headliner in Sunday’s $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) and is seeking to punch his ticket to Louisville on the first Saturday of May with a victory.

The Sunland Derby offers up 50-20-10-5 points to the top four finishers as part of the Road to the Derby series of races.

Firing Line has just eight points, good for 27th in the Derby points standings, but will be sent off at short odds as he faces six seemingly overmatched foes. His job got a bit easier on Friday when trainer Bob Baffert announced that Lord Nelson would not make the trip. The San Vicente (G2) winner was the 3-1 second choice on the morning line.

Baffert won the last two runnings of the Sunland Derby, with Chitu last year and Govenor Charlie in 2013. They both came into the race off preps at Santa Anita.

Firing Line, who is currently at early betting odds for the Kentucky Derby at 25-1 at Bovada, would secure a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby with a victory, while a runner up finish would likely put him on the bubble.

The colt is going to go off at a very short price off his back-to-back efforts behind the highly regarded Dortmund, who is currently the second choice in early Kentucky Derby wagering at 7-1 at Bovada.

Firing Line came up a head short of beating Dortmund in both the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and the Robert B. Lewis (G3). Dortmund then won the San Felipe (G2) on March 7 to remain undefeated in five career starts.

The Sunland Derby goes off at 5:40 (MT), the 11th race on a 12-race card that kicks off at 12:55 (MT) and includes seven stakes.

My Best Plays for Sunday includes my 10 strongest plays from Aqueduct and Sunland Park.

Let’s head out to Sunland Park for Sunday’s featured race of the day:


Sunland Park Race 11 The Sunland Derby G3 (Post time 5:40 MT)

1 Firing Line   8-5             

4 Why Two   8-1

6 Tiznow R J   5-1

7 Pain and Misery   6-1

Analysis: Firing Line gets out of the shadow of Dortmund, coming out on the wrong ends of photos in both the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and Robert B. Lewis (G3). The colt earned a career top speed fig last out and looks way too tough for this group. He owns a solid pace profile throughout and breaking form the rail Stevens may just send him early. With the scratch of Lord Nelson, who was going to be sent out by Baffert who won this racer the past two years, we are going to have to settle for much lighter than the 8-5 morning line.

Why Two broke his maiden at Santa Anita in his second career start and then won the Turf Paradise Derby in gate to wire fashion last out in his first start around two turns. The runner up Ride Hard Kowboy came back to win the Tempe handicap in his next start at Turf Paradise on March 14. The colt has worked sharply since his last outing and looks capable of making another move forward.

Tiznow R J checked in third in the Lecomte (G3) two back in his stakes debut and then looked like he fit in the Risen Star (G2) in his next start but after tracking the early pace he faded to finish seventh. He should be forwardly placed in his spot and has enough pedigree to handle nine furlongs, by Tiznow out a Broken Vow mare. Asmussen won this race in 2012 with Daddy Nose Best.


WIN: #1 to win at 1-1 or better.

EX: 1,4 / 1,4,6,7

TRI: 1,4 / 1,4,6,7 / 1,3,4,6,7


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