Sunland Park's inaugural WinStar Derby, with the attractive scent of a $500,000 purse, has drawn a field of eight 3-year-olds to the New Mexico track just across the border from El Paso, Texas.
Feeling the full effects of purses fueled by slot machines, Sunland Park has experienced a rebirth, and this year has garnered the sponsorship of Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm. The new race attempts to make the road to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) wind through the southwest United States via Interstate 10. The 1 1/16-miles WinStar Derby on March 30 features local horses, as well as shippers from Santa Anita, Fair Grounds, and Gulfstream Park.
Locals may lean toward Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's Mr. Decatur, winner of the $100,000 Borderland Derby, the March 2 prep for the WinStar Derby at Sunland Park. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the Banker's Gold colt won the one-mile prep in 1:36.23 by a neck over Excessivepleasure. At two, Mr. Decatur ran second in the seven-furlong Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs.
A $130,000 Keeneland September yearling sale graduate, Mr. Decatur was bred in Kentucky by Craig Bandoroff, John Clay, and the S.D. Brilie Limited Partnership. He has posted three wins and three seconds from seven starts and has earned $139,375. Corey Lanerie is reassigned the mount, having ridden him in his first two starts last summer at Arlington Park.
Excessivepleasure gets the services of racing's all-time leading money-winning jockey Pat Day. Prior to setting the pace in the Borderland Derby and just failing to last, the California-bred gelding ran second in the Ocala Stud Dash on the Sunshine Millions card at Gulfstream Park. Bred by Cypress Farms 1991 and Vessels Stallion Farm, Excessivepleasure is a gelded son of In Excess out of the Falstaff mare Pleasing. From five starts, he has a pair of wins and second-place finishes for owners Lee and Ty Leatherman and trainer Doug O'Neill.
From Santa Anita comes Spensive, Apalachian Thunder, and Sum Trick.
Spensive, second to Rojo Toro in the March 1 San Rafael Stakes (gr. II), ships east for three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert. A Florida-bred son of Ponche, Spensive has a 2-2-2 slate from eight starts and has earned $154,531. A winner of the Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields last year, Spensive also placed in the Beau Brummel Stakes at Fairplex as a 2-year-old. Gary Stevens has the mount.
Apalachian Thunder, by Wekiva Springs, comes off a fourth-place finish behind Buddy Gil in the Baldwin Stakes (gr. IIIT) at 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf at Santa Anita. Bred and owned by Donald Dizney, Apalachian Thunder is also from Baffert's barn. Pat Valenzuela will ride the gray colt who has not won or placed in a stakes in his young career, but has earned more than $100,000.
Sum Trick, owned by Stanley Fulton, the owner of Sunland Park, began his career over the local strip, winning the $161,761 Riley Allison Futurity in his second career start. His two starts as a 3-year-old have come in Southern California for trainer Rafael Becerra: a second-place finish in the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) behind Kafwain, and a fifth-place finish in the San Rafael. Bred in Kentucky by Duane Hopp, Denali Stud, S. D. Brilie, and Bill Heiligbrodt, Sum Trick has yet to travel beyond a mile. He is a son of Favorite Trick, out of the Procida mare Missuama.
From Fair Grounds comes Winning Fans for owner Cuadra Valedor and trainer Eleuterio Martinez Jr. He ran third in the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds in his third starts in this country. He began his career winning three of four starts in Mexico. Bred in Kentucky by John Crook, Winning Fans is by You and I out of the Crafty Prospector mare Princess Joanne. In his last start he ran seventh behind Peace Rules in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II).
WinStar Derby, Sunland Park, Sunday, March 30, $500,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles
Approx. Post time: 5:56 EST
Post, Horse, Jockey
1, Winning Fans, Ricardo Jaime
2, Apalachian Thunder, Pat Valenzuela
3, Mr. Decatur, Corey Lanerie
4, Sum Trick, Michael Clark
5, Flarions Flame, Christine Lynn
6, Overflight, Jorge Bourdieu
7, Excessivepleasure, Pat Day
8, Spensive, Gary Stevens