Trainer Doug O'Neill has two shots at repeating last year's victory in the inaugural $500,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park Sunday with speedster Hosco and Perfect Moon.
O'Neill won the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds last year with Inexcessivepleasure, who went on to win the Indiana Derby (gr. III) and the Iowa Derby last year and is one of the leading contenders in the Godolphin Mile (UAE-I) in Dubai Saturday.
A field of 10 was entered for this year's race. While the field lacks any standout stars, most are late developers with promise who figure to provide an entertaining event.
Hosco won the first three races of his career, including the San Miguel Stakes (gr. III) in January, in front-running style. But he was caught by Imperialism as the heavy favorite in the seven-furlong San Vicente (gr. II) Feb. 7. In his first try around two turns, the son of Honour and Glory tired to be fifth, six lengths behind Imperialism, after dueling through fast early fractions, in the San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita earlier this month.
Hi Teck Man, who starts from the extreme outside, and Rocky Gulch, second in the Borderland Derby, figure to put plenty of pace pressure on Hosco.
There are no distance questions about Perfect Moon, who has faced top Southern California competition around two turns. But he lost to Mambo Train as the 1-2 favorite in his most recent start, the Turf Paradise Derby on Feb. 7. O'Neill hopes some extra time off can help Perfect Moon regain the form he showed at 2, when he captured the Best Pal Stakes (gr. III) at Del Mar and the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III). Hall of Famer Russell Baze travels from his Bay Area base to ride.
Trainer Bob Baffert sends two from his deep bench Sunday, Consecrate and Teton Forest.
Consecrate, the gray son of Silver Charm
owned by James McIngvale, was third in the San Rafael, his most recent start, and third in the San Vicente prior to that.
B. Wayne Hughes' highly-regarded Teton Forest finished second to Rock Hard Ten in an allowance race at Santa Anita on March 3. He was favored in the San Vicente, running fifth, after only one start, a maiden victory in January.
Go Kitty Go, who stormed past heavy favorite Rocky Gulch to capture the Borderland Derby at Sunland as a 24-1 maiden in his last start, returns Sunday, ridden again by Miguel Fuentes.
Pat Day, another Hall of Fame rider, has the assignment on Victory Light, who was a fast-closing second to Bachelor Blues by a neck in Woodbine's Summer Stakes (Can-II) at a mile on the turf last year. Victory Light was fifth in a Gulfstream Park allowance race Feb. 25 in his only start this year.$500,000 WinStar Derby (Race 8, 3:40 p.m., MST), 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 mile
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Victory Light (KY), Pat Day
2. Point of Flight (KY), Corey S. Nakatani
3. Go Kitty Go (CA), Miguel V. Fuentes
4. Consecrate (KY), Javier Santiago
5. Spanish Highway (WA), Joel Campbell
6. Teton Forest (KY), Emile Ramsammy
7. Rocky Gulch (NM), Michael D. Clark
8. Perfect Moon (MD), Russell A. Baze
9. Hosco (KY), Roberto M. Gonzalez
10. Hi Teck Man (TX), Ricardo Jaime
All carry 122 pounds.