No qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby will be offered but Sunday’s $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park remains an interesting affair for three-year-olds. Wicked Indeed has been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite among nine rivals following a fourth in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds and the 1 1/16-mile race serves as the local prep for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) on March 24, an event that offers a total of 85 points toward a berth in the first leg of the American Triple Crown.
Mine That Bird, who famously upset the 2009 Kentucky Derby, finished second in the Borderland Derby (now the Mine That Bird) and fourth in the Sunland Derby at the New Mexico track before posting a 50-1 surprise at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Wicked Indeed invades for Steve Asmussen after finishing 6 1/2 lengths behind the winning War of Will, who came back to capture the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds last Saturday. A Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred, Wicked Indeed won his career debut in late November and finished third in a highly-rated allowance before delivering a respectable showing in his stakes bow last time. Luis Contreras picks up the mount on the gray Tapit colt.
Hustle Up comes next on the morning line at 3-1 following a 5 1/2-length romp in the February 2 Red Hederman Mile at Sunland. A four-time restricted stakes winner for Todd Fincher, the gelded son of Abstraction brings good speed to his first attempt against open foes and Shane Laviolette has the call.
One Flew South has been pegged at 4-1 in his first start for new connections. The dark bay led all the way in his lone outing, scoring by 5 3/4 lengths in a salty maiden special weight over Turfway Park’s Polytrack in late November, and was flattered when runner-up High Crime came back to break his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park. One Flew South was sold privately and two-time Kentucky Derby winner Doug O’Neill has taken over the training duties for the Giant’s Causeway colt. Heriberto Figueroa rides.
Mc Awesome, Eye Cloud and Thunderousapplause, the respective fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place finishers in the January 27 Riley Allison at Sunland, are all back for the Mine That Bird. Other runners include last-out maiden winner Walker Stalker.
One race prior to the Mine That Bird, eight sophomore fillies will contest the $75,000 Island Fashion. The 1 1/16-mile race serves as a prep for the March 24 Sunland Park Oaks, a Kentucky Oaks qualifier.
Backflash will switch back to the main track for Asmussen following a comfortable turf allowance triumph at Sam Houston for Asmussen and Contreras will guide the 8-5 morning line favorite. Asmussen has also entered Blessings First, who was second as the favorite to Backflash last time. She’s listed at 4-1 with Alfredo Juarez Jr.