Firing Line the Favorite at the $800,000 Sunland Derby [VIDEO]
On Sunday, $800,000 and a coveted spot in the Kentucky Derby will be on the line for the 13th running of the Grade 3 Sunland Derby. Firing Line is the highest ranked three-year old horse to ever compete at the Sunland Derby. The horse, trained by Simon Callaghan and ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, is ranked sixth by the Daily Racing Form's Derby Watch List. Stevens retired 10 years ago, but came back to racing in 2012.
Firing Line's number one challenger, Lord Nelson pulled out of the race on Wednesday. The Bob Baffert trained horse last raced two weeks ago at Santa Anita in the San Felipe Stakes, and had not recovered well enough to compete in the Sunland Derby. Despite Lord Nelson's scratch, the race still features some excellent local horses like Where's The Moon and Dirt Monster.
Another horse to keep an eye on is Why Two, trained by Michael Machowsky and he will be saddled by jockey Victor Espinosa. Here is a profile of Why Two.
For horse racing fans that will be attending Sunday's event, here is a look at each of the seven horses competing in the Sunland Derby, along with an updated Morning Line.
Lifetime Record: 4-1-3-0, $174,800
Firing Line has had the misfortune of running twice against Dortmund in both the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity and the Grade 3 Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, both times coming up just a head short of success. Dortmund has since validated himself again, remaining unbeaten with a strong win in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes. The Kentucky-bred son of Line of David broke his maiden on the synthetic surface at Del Mar last November 30, and has yet to win in three starts on conventional dirt. Callaghan is a multiple Grade 1 winning trainer, including twice last year with Fashion Plate, who scored in the Santa Anita Oaks and Las Virgenes Stakes. Zetcher owned 2009 Sunland Oaks winner Gabbys Golden Gal, who later that year would also win the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park as well as the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap as a 4-year-old at Santa Anita. Firing Line is currently ranked 6th on the Daily Racing Form's Derby Watch List and would be a solid favorite in the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III). Dortmund is ranked 1st in the Daily Racing Form’s Derby Watch List so Firing Line would add plenty of sparkle to the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III).
Lifetime Record: 3-2-0-1, $74,360
The royally bred son of Malibu Moon is the reigning champion of the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby, the chief local prep race for the Sunland Derby (Gr. III). Consequently, Where's The Moon will be the home town favorite and retain the home field advantage with two straight wins over the local soil. Owned for 2013 leading Sunland Park owner Kirk and Judy Robison, Where's the Moon hails from a top barn. The Robison's Isn't He Clever was second in the 2012 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) and remains one of the leading handicap horses in the state of New Mexico. Trainer Henry Dominguez won this race in 2007 with Song of Navarone and ranks was one of the greatest Thoroughbred trainers in the history of New Mexico racing. Where's The Moon employs an efficient stalk and pounce style and is coming off a powerful win over multiple stakes winner Cinco Charlie and Dirt Monster in the Mine That Bird Derby.
Lifetime Record: 3-2-0-0, $82,065
The Turf Paradise Derby champ is riding a two race win streak and looks to be peaking at the right time. He is conditioned by Michael Machowsky who is no stranger to success at Sunland Park having won the 2009 Sunland Derby with Kelly Leak. Why Two returned to Santa Anita Park after his triumph in Phoenix and is training well.
Lifetime Record: 3-2-0-0, $28,260
Malibu Mogul looked like a world beater on Feb. 16 winning a $20,500 Sunland Park maiden race by over 9 lengths in near track record time. The Malibu Moon colt trained by Henry Dominguez crushed his foes with ease and sped through five and one-half furlongs in a jaw dropping 1:02.07. He pulled clear with authority under a hand ride from jockey Enrique Gomez. In his subsequent allowance appearance at Sunland Park on March 6, Malibu Mogul had to call upon all his courage to win a photo finish. Nevertheless, the well bred colt owns two wins over the Sunland Park surface and could be dangerous.
Lifetime Record: 5-1-0-3, $54,180
Having run twice into a buzz saw named International Star at Fair Grounds in both the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes and the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes earlier this year, it's possible the son of Tiznow is looking to avoid another potential run-in with a horse considered by many to be a legitimate Kentucky Derby threat. A Kentucky-bred colt by two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow, he broke his maiden in his third career start, racing wire-to-wire and winning by an official margin of 13 1/4 lengths. Asmussen, currently the second leading thoroughbred trainer in America in terms of wins in 2015, is also no stranger to success in the Sunland Derby, having saddled 2012 winner Daddy Nose Best. Asmussen was the nation’s second leading trainer in 2014 with 294 wins. Owner Mike McCarty has raced his horses in New Mexico for many years.
Lifetime Record: 5-2-1-1, $73,230
Owned in part by New Mexico State Racing Commissioner B. Ray Willis, Pain and Misery flashed great speed at Zia Park last fall winning two races. He defeated Sunland Derby (Gr. III) rival Dirt Monster in a maiden race at Hobbs on September 22. Pain and Misery parlayed his New Mexico success with a strong second place finish in the Baffle Stakes at Santa Anita on the downhill six and half furlong turf course. The son of Bob and John showed terrific heart and came within a neck of Bench Warrant. Trained by Richard Mandella, Pain and Misery could be a significant pace threat in the Sunland Derby (Gr. III).
Lifetime Record: 7-2-2-3, $68,558
The talented son of Line of David has been well touted since debuting in the Manzano Stakes at Albuquerque last year. In 7 career starts, the gem of consistency has 2 wins, 2 seconds and 3 thirds. He sparkled through two sprinting wins in Hobbs last fall and finished solid thirds in both the $100,000 Riley Allison Derby and $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby. Purchased at auction for $275,000 by successful horseman Tony Pennington, Dirt Monster is learning how to route and fought hard against Where's The Moon and Cinco Charlie in The Mine That Bird Derby at 1 and 1/16 miles. His superstar trainer is Justin Evans who is lighting up another stellar year at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino winning at over a 26 percent clip. The runaway leader in the trainer's standings is looking for his third straight Sunland Park title. Evans was the 3rd leading trainer in the United States last year with 272 wins.