California shipper Tango Tango is the morning line favorite among nine 3-year-olds entered for Sunland Park's $100,000 Borderland Derby Feb. 27, a race that takes on added significance as a prep this season for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (gr. III) next month.
The nine-furlong Sunland Derby, which is March 28, is a graded race for the first time in 2010. The rich purse figures to make it an attractive destination for the connections of horses that need such earnings in order to qualify for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) field. There were 130 horses nominated for the Sunland Derby by the Feb. 1 deadline.
None of the nine 3-year-olds entered in the 1 1/16-mile Borderland Derby, including Tango Tango, are currently nominated for the Triple Crown, but an encouraging performance from any of them at the El Paso-area track could change that.
Tango Tango, from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn, is the 9-5 early choice though his accomplishments to date are modest. The Kentucky-bred son of Orientate, out of the Sham mare Dime Queen, wheels back in two weeks after he finished last of five, beaten 8 3/4 lengths following a slow break in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 13.
Owned by Cornett Racing and River Ridge Ranch, Tango Tango was a $100,000 Ocala Breeders' Sales Company Selected Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training purchase last March. He raced exclusively at Golden Gate Fields prior to the 1 1/16-mile Lewis, winning two of four starts, all at six furlongs on the Tapeta racing surface. This would be his first start over a dirt surface.
The gray/roan colt broke his maiden at first asking by 3 1/2 lengths Oct. 25. After two losses, Tango Tango won an optional claiming allowance race by a nose as the 6-5 favorite Jan. 9.
Jockey Jamie Theriot gets the assignment on Tango Tango for the first time. They'll break from post 8.
Lathrop Hoffman's Storming Saint is the 5-2 second choice. Trained by top New Mexico conditioner Henry Dominguez, the Florida-bred son of Sweetsouthernsaint is coming off a third-place showing in the 6 1/2-furlong Riley Allison Futurity over a good track Dec. 29. Storming Saint broke his maiden in a one-mile special weight heat by 13 lengths a month earlier at Zia Park.
Jockey Luis Contreras takes over for the first time on Storming Saint, one of two entered by Dominguez. Maiden Raise the Bridle, second by a nose in his only start to Boderland rival Guiltbyassociation, is the other. Raise the Bridle, a Florida-bred colt by Spanish Steps brought $120,000 at Ocala as a 2-year-old last April.
New Mexico-bred Chuchuluco, from the Todd Fincher barn, is the lone stakes winner in the field. The 7-2 morning line choice won the six-furlong Pepsi Cola for state breds by 2 1/4 lengths as the favorite in his first start of the year Jan. 23 at Sunland. Owned by West Texas Racing Partners, the gelding by Devon Lane also won a division of the New Mexico Classic Cup series at six furlongs at Zia Park in November.
Fincher also trains Guiltbyassociation, a Kentucky-bred son of Birdstone who races for Bongo Racing Stable, Gary Broad and partners. Guiltbyassociation formerly raced for Michael Machowsky in Southern California and was winless in four starts before transferring to Sunland to register his maiden victory Feb. 17.
Amen Baby, one of two in the Borderland from the Chris Hartman stable, stretches out for the first time following a 3 1/4-length triumph over a first-level allowance field on a good track at Sunland Jan. 29. The Florida-bred son of Songandaprayer has won three of his past four starts.
Maiden winner McKenna's Justice, who drew the rail after racing on the grass in his past three starts, also was entered by Hartman.
$100,000 Borderland Derby (Race 10, 4:31 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. McKenna's Justice (KY), K S Tohill, 121, C A Hartman, 8/1
2. Haitian Hero (KY), A Medellin, 121, A Gonzalez, 15/1
3. Amen Baby (FL), A Delgadillo, 121, C A Hartman, 6/1
4. Nicky Boy (CA), M A Perez, 116, A Ascencio, 50/1
5. Storming Saint (FL), L Contreras, 121, H Dominguez, 5/2
6. Chuchuluco (NM), I D Enriquez, 121, T W Fincher, 7/2
7. Guiltbyassociation (KY), A J Juarez, Jr., 121, T W Fincher, 10/1
8. Tango Tango (KY), J Theriot, 121, J Hollendorfer, 9/5
9. Raise the Bridle (FL), J Ochoa, 121, H Dominguez, 25/1