Kentucky Derby contenders assemble in New Mexico Sunday for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3). A qualifier worth a total of 85 points (50-20-10-5 scale) toward a berth in the first leg of the Triple Crown, the 1 1/8-mile race drew 12 runners including multiple graded stakes-placed All Out Blitz and last-out allowance scorer New York Central.
First held in 2003, the Sunland Derby was the launching point for Firing Line, who parlayed a 14 ¼-length romp into a close second to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby. Of course, 50-1 upsetter Mine That Bird rates as the most distinguished alumni and his long odds are attributable to a non-threatening fourth in the 2009 Sunland Derby.
All Out Blitz broke his maiden in mid-December and returned three weeks later with a runner-up to McKinzie in the Robert B. Lewis (G3), finishing four lengths clear of third-placer My Boy Jack. That rival followed with a victory in the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn and is listed as the morning-line favorite in Saturday’s $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), but All Out Blitz faltered when cutting back to a sprint in his next outing, recording a well-beaten third in the February 10 San Vicente (G2).
A son of Concord Point, All Out Blitz was made a late nominee to the Triple Crown this week and the Simon Callaghan pupil adds the services of Martin Garcia for his second route attempt. He’s listed as the slight 4-1 morning line favorite from the innermost post.
New York Central invades from Oaklawn Park for Steve Asmussen following a commendable allowance victory on February 19, gamely re-rallying to edge a well-regarded rival over a muddy track. The gray Tapit colt will bring jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. with him and is the early 9-2 second choice.
Asmussen also has Dream Baby Dream, a rallying third to New York Central in the aforementioned allowance. Listed at 10-1, the Into Mischief colt adds blinkers and picks up leading local rider Alfredo Juarez Jr.
Hollywood Star, fourth when opening his sophomore season in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa, ships in from Gulfstream for Dale Romans and Robby Albarado rides. He’s 6-1 on the morning line along with stablemate Seven Trumpets, a close second in the Jerome two back but seventh in the Southwest; and restricted stakes winner Prince Lucky, who makes his first start for Todd Pletcher following an unplaced effort in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds.
Runaway Ghost is the top local hopeful, easily winning the Riley Allison prior to a runner-up effort in the February 25 Mine That Bird. Peace, a non-threatening fourth in the San Felipe (G2), wheels back after a 15-day rest for Hall of Famer Richard Mandella and Drayden Van Dyke has the call.