Sunland Park: The Grade III, $800,000 Sunland Derby at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 50-20-10-5)
While the majority of the field for the Sunland Derby is made up of lightly raced and developing types, there’s plenty of talent from some powerhouse connections, so it’s a race worth following down the road, even if it doesn’t figure to yield a major Kentucky Derby contender. Two turns certainly agreed with #2 HEDGE FUND, as he stretched out in his second career start and blasted maidens at Gulfstream Park, and with this inside draw, he should be right off what looks like an honest pace and get first run off the far turn. The two-turn thing worked for #3 BRONZE AGE as well, as he didn’t show anything in two Santa Anita sprint starts for Bob Baffert but kept finding more on the lead going a mile last time, and while he’ll likely have to run faster early here, there’s little doubt his ceiling is very high. While he’s yet to run two turns on dirt, #7 KIMBEAR sure looked good winning by four to break his maiden last time at SA and is bred top and bottom to love this trip, so from close range he could pull the surprise if he moves forward again. Wayne Lukas and Gary Stevens have teamed up to win countless big races over the years and with #6 DILETTANTE they pair up with a longshot who didn’t run all that poorly when fifth in Oaklawn Park’s GIII Southwest last time, against eons better than what he meets here, and his last two figures say he’s not without hope here either.
#2 Hedge Fund
#3 Bronze Age