EL PASO, Texas (WHAS11)-- Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, your horse can give Derby a serious shot. Barns on the backside are dreaming of roses, and Sunland can give you a starting gate slot. (Sung to the tune of El Paso by Marty Robbins)
From the race track that gave you Mine That Bird, we present the 12th running of the Sunland Derby. It's an $800,000 purse and the knowledge that a fourth place runner in this race won the Kentucky Derby.
Believe it. It's a movie. There's a trailer ride to Louisville, a lot of mud, Calvin Borel and a Birdstone pedigree. And if you want proof, just visit the Derby Museum and pet him on the nose.
Actually, this race is in suburban El Paso, and you have to cross the line to New Mexico, not Old Mexico. Sunland Park has been around since the 50's but slot machines have been added to boost the thoroughbred purses.
And so names like Baffert and Pletcher are showing up to chase the thousands of dollars and the 85 points that add up to a trip to Louisville. (Trailer optional)
Bob Baffert, who won the race last year with Govenor Charlie, ships in two serious Derby contenders in Midnight Hawk, who already has 32 points, and the lightly raced Chitu. Both sport Beyer figures in the mid 90's in their last race but Santa Anita has been inflating speed figures all winter.
From Florida, Todd Pletcher sends Commissioner after a disappointing 6th in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and maiden winner Global Strike. Commissioner gets John Velazquez and Global Strike has Javier Castellano.
The big trainers are not picking up any local jockeys. Baffert has Mike Smith on Midnight Hawk and Martin Garcia on Chitu.
From Arkansas, Cody Autrey sends Tanzanite Cat, who won the Smarty Jones Stakes but is looking for a softer spot after a 5th in the Southwest Stakes. Tanzanite Cat will try to grab the lead in this race, but it won't be uncontested.
Among the other contenders, Peter Miller has maiden winner Garen from Santa Anita, and Kellyn Gorder tries again with allowance winner Bourbonize from Oaklawn Park.
And among the locals trying to be the next Mine That Bird, a Tiznow colt by the name of Rebranded has been entered after finishing second in the (can you believe this) the Mine That Bird Derby. And Lawly's Goal shows up at Sunland after a second in the Turf Paradise Derby.
Despite the high desert background, the winner of this race will find paradise in the winner's circle. Every year Sunland Park produces at least one Derby runner and in 2009 it was magic.
And by the way, this is the last 50 point Derby prep. Next weekend, everything goes to 100 starting with the Florida Derby.