George Sette dissects the Sunland Derby for Past the Wire…
Sunday March 24th The $800,000 Grade 3 Sunland Derby, Sunland Park, New Mexico 1 & 1/8 Mile For Three Year Olds Post Time 5:30 MT
Hey, I know it’s not a grade one, but it’s still three-year-olds in the Spring, and yes, an important Kentucky Derby prep which was first run back in 2003. It has a limited history, but has produced some exciting races.
In 2017, Steve Asmussen saddled “Hence”, who won this race in rather dramatic fashion, circling the field and closing powerfully from last to first passing horses as if they were tied to the rail. It really was a thing of beauty at a delicious square price. I remember it well, because I took pride in offering him as a selection. He moved so fast, even the race caller missed his ridiculously powerful move.
Once again I put every bit of my passion and handicapping skills into my analysis. This is how I see the race race panning out. This is my precise order of finish.
I “suggest” you consider my top 4 selections for all or most of your wagers.
# 4 Wicked Indeed He is my top choice after digging hard and deep into this race.
There’s an incredible amount of speed in this race, so I’m feeling a likely scenario for a speed duel. If it surfaces, this son of Tapit has the bloodlines to rally powerfully into this field and take this nine furlong contest on top. Sure he disappointed in his latest, the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby over this same oval, but I feel he was compromised by the outside post. Now he’s been freshened with a couple of breezes and just may get the perfect trip. As aforementioned Steve Asmussen won this race in 2017 and Luis Contreras is a dependable jockey who can give it all he’s got. I am expecting 6-1 or better as he needs to run his career best, a worthwhile shot for your exotics.
# 1 Mucho Gusto Yeah, he’s a very talented colt who is likely to keep getting better.
He is saddled by the world class Bob Baffert who has won this race three times. He’s been very reliable hitting the board in all 4 of his starts, winning 3 and running 2nd in a very good Grade 1 field. He possesses quality tactical speed and will have the confident Joe Talamo in the saddle. He is working impressively, and in my opinion is the horse to beat. He is likely to sit cozy off the rail, maybe 3rd and then close into what should be a rapid pace. I’m placing him 2nd because his real dominating win came in the slop at Santa Anita. He is also running in his biggest field to date. Is he capable of taking it all? Absolutely, so do not discard. He must be respected.
# 5 Cutting Humor This colt certainly disappointed in his latest, faltering late as the 2-1 favorite in a field of 11.
Johnny V up for Todd Pletcher should automatically get your attention. Their success is absolutely immeasurable. I’m impressed by this colts versatility, as he will now start in his 6th different track over his 6 lifetimes races. He’s been hitting the board often (4 of 5) albeit with just 1 win, but something is telling me he’s going to run a big one soon. Don’t think he’s as ready as my top pair, but watch the board to see if there’s big action on him. He’s one of those horse who could fall through the cracks at the betting windows if you don’t watch him closely. Expecting him to be sitting off the pace and then fire as they turn for home.
# 2 Another Twist of Fate This guy seems to have a world of talent.
On synthetic courses he’s an unbeaten 3 for 3. He comes from successful connections and has high speed which can cause a bang up early. I’m just hoping others will run out with him, and I feel that is a very real possibility. If they allow him to get away, and Jockey Hernandez settles him down, watch out. That’s the beauty of handicapping, you need to be decisive, and as fast as this colt is, hitting the soil here for the first time, I’m feeling that perhaps this 9 furlong distance won’t be as easy for him as it was at Golden Gate. He will give way late. He’s my 4th choice today, but can better my rating if he gets loose.
# 3 Hustle Up Another rather dynamic Colt who has the propensity to get in gear early and flash solid speed.
He’s an unbelievable 4 for 4 over this Sunland Park Oval. It’s hard to question his heart as he’s won 8 of 10 lifetime starts. It’s almost scary, but 7 of those wins came against inferior horses in the state bred ranks, a totally different field here facing talented open company horses from big barns. His last was his best, actually defeating my top choice, with a wire to wire effort. I’m giving him respect because of his nose for the wire, but he’s stepping up big time here.
# 6 Walker Stalker Clearly a horse for the course.
All of his lifetime races are at Sunland Park. He’s hit the board each time. In this spot, his decent tactical speed isn’t as fast of many of his rivals. He’s not the bottom of this field, but he seems up against it to hit the board at the finish line. To be used strictly on the bottom of deeper gimmicks.
#9 Diamond Blitz This guy is a speed ball breaking from the outside.
He’s the guy who I feel will contribute to the expected fast pace and set the race up for my top choice and my Trifecta finishers. This colt is from the Desormeaux connections, and I feel the only way they can attempt to win this will be to fire up on the lead. Look for that alert getaway and for the pace to be swift. Expecting him to tire, and will not use him in my exotics.
#7 Pasamonte Man, # 8 Collusionist & # 10 Eye Cloud These three are my choices to fill the bottom three spots to the wire.
All of them seem to be much slower that the rest of the field, and collectively need to develop their ways in cheaper company. It would be a major surprise if any of these guys hit the board or run better than 6th for that matter…
Ok, so there you have it….a Big Racing day on Sunday in New Mexico,
Tis the season…. Good Luck to everyone and May God Bless America
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