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Derby Prep Preview: Grade 3 Sunland Derby

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After yesterday's result in the Louisiana Derby it's becoming increasingly clear that this year's Kentucky Derby is going to have a high number of pure speed horses.  Now, many years we see a lot of quick miler types that attempt to get the mile and a quarter distance, but this year there appears to be a little bit more.  Think about the horses that are either in or really close to being in at this point: Rule, Discreetly Mine, Conveyance, A Little Warm, Sidney's Candy...that's five wire-to-wire colts right there.  Now it's possible that one or all of these colts don't need the lead to win, but none of them have really shown that ability at this point in their careers.   

If you're Bob Baffert and you've got a colt like Lookin At Lucky, a colt that has shown an ability to press the pace and to sit a little further back, you've got to love what you're seeing in potential Derby pace horses.

On to today's Derby prep, the Grade 3 Sunland Derby and its $800,000 purse.  The new graded status of this race ensures that the winner will have enough earnings to make the Derby should more than twenty horses enter.  Post time today is at 5:45 Mountain time....perform whatever calculation necessary to figure out what that means in your neck of the woods.  

A look at the field below the jump...

1-Storming Saint (8/1):  Second to the finish line the local prep Borderland Derby, but placed first after a disqualification of Raise the Bridle.  Doesn't have a lot of speed in his corner so he'll likely hang back and look to make one run coming off the turn.  Needs a pace meltdown.

2-Nacho Friend (9/2): A lightly raced son of Friend's Lake that appears to have a lot of upside in his corner.  Third by three lengths to the very impressive Awesome Act in the Grade 3 Gotham last time out.  He flattened out in the stretch pretty badly that day but I can probably forgive that since it was his first race since early July.  It wouldn't be out of the question to see him run a much better race today. 

3-Conveyance (9/5):  He'll look to win this race the same way he's won all four of his lifetime starts: break quickly, grab a clear lead, and take the field wire-to-wire.  This will be his first try beyond a mile but if he runs like he did in the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn he'll be tough for this field to catch.  He's never had a published work over the Sunland Park surface so there's a chance he won't take to it.  A small chance, but a chance.

4-McKenna's Justice (15/1): It's tough to make a case for this colt when you look at his record as his last race saw him lose by 15 ½ lengths and he was essentially finished after a half mile.  Prior to that he was running on the turf at Retama and Louisiana Downs where he performed about the same.  The only win to his name is a 7 ½ furlong Maiden Special Weight turf race at Lone Star last July.  Seems highly unlikely to win.

5-Endorsement (10/1): This WinStar colt could be the proverbial fly in the ointment today for Conveyance.  He's only a maiden winner and this will be his first try in stakes company but he showed a lot of early speed in his wire to wire maiden breaking effort at Oaklawn on February 20thRobby Albarado makes the trip to New Mexico to take the mount and that can't be a bad sign.

6-Classical Slew (6/1): First time on conventional dirt for this Doug O'Neill trainee, Classical Slew ran third to Sidney's Candy and Tiny Woods in the Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita last time out.  He's got some question marks given his lack of races on the dirt, along with the fact that he hasn't won a race since early July at Hollywood Park and he's never tried two-turns.  He'll have to overcome a lot to take this one.

7-Fog Alert (12/1): Another California shipper with nary a dirt race in his career, Fog Alert comes to New Mexico off of a fourth place finish in the Grade 3 El Camino Real at Golden Gate on February 20th.  He's got a bunch of two-turn races under his belt so he should be okay in terms of stamina.  Additionally, his stalking style should play well in a race without a ton of speed.  I don't see him as the winner but he could figure in the exacta or tri.

8-Guiltbyassociation (20/1): Another local contender coming out of the Borderland Derby on February 27th where he finished a well beaten fifth.  Guiltbyassociation sport just a Sunland maiden win to his credit after being routinely beaten in SoCal early in his career.  He may have disliked the synthetic tracks in California, or he may have just been way out of his league class-wise. 

9-Tempted to Tapit (3/1): A good second to Discreetly Mine in the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 20th, this will be this colt's last chance to pick up the earnings he needs to get to Kentucky.  Had the perfect stalking trip at the Fair Grounds but could not pass the winner at any point in the stretch and he might run into a similar situation in this race if Conveyance gets an easy lead.  Given that situation, we may well see this colt to try and get to the front right out of the gate in order to prevent Conveyance from receiving his preferred trip.

Selections

I find this race a little odd in that I think that the only way Tempted to Tapit can win is to get out and challenge Conveyance for the lead.  If he doesn't do that, and Conveyance gets another easy lead, I think the race is over.  On the downside, if Tempted to Tapit does challenge for the early lead and he goes too fast he could end up taking himself out of the race.  Lots of decisions for jockey David Cohen once that gate opens.

A pace duel between Conveyance and Tempted to Tapit would be the perfect scenario for Nacho Friend, who would like nothing more than those two to run themselves into the ground.  He's currently the third choice on the morning line at 9/2 and I'll take him for the win at 4/1 or higher.