Formerly known as the WinStar Derby, this year's 1 1/8-mile test of 3-year-olds drew a record 12 entrants. Mayor Marv, front-running 4 1/2-length winner of the Turf Paradise Derby Feb. 21, was installed as the 7-2 choice. All 12 carry 122 pounds.
Mike Pegram's homebred son of Distorted Humor has back-to-back wins for Baffert after breaking his maiden at Santa Anita Park at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 27. Sent off as the even-money choice in the Turf Paradise race, Mayor Marv repulsed a challenge on the far turn and drew away in the stretch for an easy win over six rivals. Victor Espinoza has the call for the first time on Mayor Marv, who has finished in the money in six of seven lifetime starts.
Mayor Marv, who usually likes to set the pace, has a pair of speedy rivals to his inside in Texas invader Valid Stripes, who breaks from the rail, and Santamonicacanyon, one of several Southern California shippers in the field.
Baffert, who started coming to Sunland Park as a teenager with his father, is seeking his second win in the race after scoring in 2006 with Wanna Runner.
This year's race comes with a $100,000 bonus if the winner has any previous graded stakes earnings. It was a change track officials made in hopes of boosting the quality of the field and earning the race graded status. Advice, Kelly Leak, Mark S the Cooler, and Mine That Bird would qualify for the bonus.
Mike Smith jumps aboard Kelly Leak, the 4-1 second choice trained by Michael Machowsky. The son of Runaway Groom is coming off a one-mile turf win at Santa Anita Feb. 22 and seeks his first stakes triumph since being disqualified from victory in Del Mar's Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) last summer.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is represented by Advice, who was placed third in last year's Arlington Washington Futurity (gr. III) at Arlington Park after being disqualified from second. The son of Chapel Royal made his seasonal debut Feb. 26 with a closing third-place finish in a 1 1/16-mile allowance heat at Santa Anita, and will wear blinkers for the first time in the Sunland Derby. John Velazquez rides.
Mark S the Cooler, a son of Johar, drops down in company a bit for trainer Doug O'Neill after finishing well behind leading Triple Crown candidates The Pamplemousse in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) and Pioneerof the Nile in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) in his last two starts.
Mine That Bird, winner of Woodbine's Grey Stakes (Can-III) last year, got a feel for the track when finishing second by a neck to Scorewithcater in the Borderland Derby Feb. 28. Scorewithcater, as well as third-place finisher Smokin' Legend, are both in the field, as is Dumar, who finished fifth in the Borderland as the favorite.
The Sunland Derby is the 12th on a 13-race card. The program includes four other stakes, including the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks and the $100,000 Harry W. Henson Handicap. The Oaks features the Baffert-trained pair of Gabby's Golden Gal and Century Park.
$800,000 Sunland Derby (Race 12, 5:45 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Valid Stripes (TX), Corey J. Lanerie
2. Santamonicacanyon (KY), David R. Flores
3. Advice (FL), John R. Velazquez
4. Dumar (KY), Luis Contreras
5. Mayor Marv (KY), Victor Espinoza
6. Scorewithcater (KY), Michael C. Baze
7. Mythical Power (KY), Garrett K. Gomez
8. Kelly Leak (FL), Mike E. Smith
9. Mine That Bird (KY), Casey T. Lambert
10. Infernal (KY), Mark A. Villa
11. Mark S the Cooler (KY), Corey S. Nakatani
12. Smokin' Legend (KY), Jorge Espitia
Each assigned 122 pounds.