As a Grade 3 stakes with a purse of $800,000, the Sunland Derby attracts some of the best three-year-old thoroughbred colts from around the United States. This competition usually takes place in March at the Sunland Park Racetrack in New Mexico and earned its status as a Grade 3 race in 2010. Inaugurated in 2003, these stakes are currently run at a distance of 1 1/8 miles on the dirt track after beginning as a 1 1/16 mile race for the first couple of years. The purse for the Sunland Derby has grown from $500,000 to its current offering, helping to boost the status of this race.
Also increasing the profile of the Sunland Derby is the fact that it’s one of the last races of the first leg of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship series, which helps determine the lineup for the first race in the American Triple Crown. The purse is the biggest prize of all the races during this portion of the Road with the Kentucky Derby, with winners earning 50 points in the overall standings. Second place finishers earn 20 points, third place wins 10 points while fourth place collects 5 points.
Bob Baffert is the most successful trainer at the Sunland Derby, winning three editions of the race including two consecutive between 2013 and 2014. Martin Garcia rode those horses to victory, tying Victor Espinoza for the most successful jockey in this race. Espinoza also won back to back competitions in 2006 and 2007. The old speed record at the 1 1/16 mile distance is 1:42.84, set by Excessivepleasure in 2003 while Govenor Charlie holds the record for the current 1 1/8 mile distance at 1:47.54.
When the race first began, it was called the WinStar Derby before changing to its current moniker in 2009. The most successful horse to win this race is Thor’s Echo, who went on to win the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes – both Grade 1 stakes – eventually taking home the 2006 Eclipse Award for Champion Sprinter. The 2014 winner of the Sunland Derby, Chitu, currently holds the best finish in the Kentucky Derby of any winner, running to a ninth place finish.
Sunland Derby Betting Odds
Firing Line took most of the wagering money and a dominating 14-length victory in the 2015 Sunland Derby, but it was a second place run by 11-1 Where’s The Moon, and 25-1 Pain And Misery that had handicappers with winning trifecta tickets celebrating a $65.60 payout on a $2 bet. When you put together a ticket like that through Bovada, our highest-recommended online racebook, you celebrate even more with up to 5% cash back bonuses, paid out daily.
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2016 Sunland Derby Contenders
Firing Line escaped the shadow of Dortmund in a big way while winning the 2015 Sunland Park Derby by an astounding 14 1/4 lengths. After suffering the narrowest of defeats to his main rival in both the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity and Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis, Firing Line shipped to New Mexico and proved the legitimacy of his class and speed despite drawing an inside post and hooking several other speedy colts in the 1 1/8 race. The Simon Callaghan-trainee would go on to race in the Kentucky Derby as an 8/1 choice, and managed to finish in front of Dortmund while giving eventual Triple Crown champion American Pharoah a serious tussle in the stretch before yielding in the final furlong. His second-place finish fell just a length short of American Pharoah – by far the closest finish of the 2015 Triple Crown series. Firing Line returned to run seventh of eight horses in the Preakness Stakes, but was compromised by stumbling out of the gate on a muddy track while possibly sustaining the injury that prompted his absence from racing for the duration of the 2015 season.
2015 Order of Finish: Win Place Show
1st: Firing Line $2.40 $2.10 $2.10
2nd: Where’s The Moon $4.40 $3.00
3rd: Pain and Misery $4.80
(Also Ran: Tiznow RJ, Dirt Monster, Why Two, Malibu Mogul; Scratched: Lord Nelson)
Check back closer to race day for a list of the 2016 Sunland Derby contenders.