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Blue-blooded Govenor Charlie steps up in Sunland Derby

San Vicente winner Shakin It Up and kinsman Govenor Charlie figure strongly in the Sunland Derby (Benoit Photos)

Fifteen years removed from their Kentucky Derby victory with Real Quiet, owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert have another potential candidate for the Louisville classic in Govenor Charlie, one of two colts Baffert will saddle in Sunday's Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby over 1 1/8 miles.

The lightly-raced Govenor Charlie has made just two starts. Recovering from a slow start to finish a distant second to next-out allowance winner Let Em Shine in a a January 19 maiden at Santa Anita, the dark bay successfully stretched out to a mile over the same track February 17 and bested next-out maiden winner Footbridge by a neck after a stretch-long duel.

A homebred, Govenor Charlie is by the Baffert-trained sprint champion Midnight Lute. The colt's second dam is Silverbulletday, a two-time champion for Pegram and Baffert whose major victories included the Kentucky Oaks, Alabama and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Shakin It Up, another Midnight Lute grandson of Silverbulletday, is the other Baffert trainee in the field. Bred by Pegram and co-owned by him with Dennis Cardoza, Shakin It Up has a deeper resume so far with two stakes appearances under his belt. Third in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue last November following a dominant maiden score at Santa Anita, Shakin It Up kicked off 2013 with a one-length tally in the Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita over seven furlongs on February 17.

Other California invaders making the trek to Sunland Park for Sunday's race are last-out maiden winners Just Win Baby and Saint Prado, and the Doug O'Neill-trained Mudflats, who was unplaced in both the San Vicente and Grade 2 Jerome in his two stakes appearances.

The lone East Coast shipper in the Sunland Derby is the Todd Pletcher trainee Abraham, who rebounded from a photo-finish loss in his debut to win a nine-furlong Gulfstream Park maiden by a length in the slop February 16.

The Sunland Derby field is rounded out by the top three finishers from the February 23 Mine That Bird Derby -- Dry Summer, Show Some Magic and Stormdriver -- all of whom are locally based.

Midnight Lucky, a daughter of Midnight Lute co-owned by Pegram, will be an overwhelming favorite to give Baffert a third consecutive win in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks at 1 1/16 miles.

A 7 1/4-length debut winner at Santa Anita on February 16 going 6 1/2 furlongs, Midnight Lucky seeks to follow in the hoofsteps of 2011 winner Plum Pretty, who went on to capture the Kentucky Oaks, and 2012 vixen Princess Arabella.

Majestic River, runner-up in a February 16 Gulfstream allowance at 1 1/16 miles in only her second lifetime start, represents the powerful Pletcher stable. Others of note are Unusual Way, a multiple stakes winner in California for conditioner Jeff Bonde, and Countess Curlin, a four-length winner of the main local prep, the February 24 Island Fashion.

Sunland will offer two other open stakes Saturday: the $75,000 Harry Henson Handicap for older fillies and mares at one mile, and the $75,000 Bill Thomas Memorial for older horses at 6 1/2 furlongs.

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