This weekend’s top race on the 2017 Kentucky Derby Trail gets pushed to Sunday’s card with the running of the $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino in New Mexico. This final Kentucky Derby prep race in the month of March is set to pave the way for an exciting month of horse betting in April.
While the projected field for this year’s Sunland Derby may not contain some of the more household names on the list of top contenders for this May’s Kentucky Derby field, you can rest assured that the winner of this race will suddenly have their name added to the mix. The following is a look at my top three betting picks for Sunday’s main event when it comes to cashing a winning trifecta ticket based on the current list of probable entries.
2017 Sunland Derby- Sunland Park
The Sunland Derby is a Grade 3 stakes race for three-year old thoroughbreds. It will be contested on the dirt track at Sunland over an extended distance of 1 1/8 miles as one of the longer Kentucky Derby prep races. The total prize purse for this year’s event has been set at $800,000.
The final field for Sunday’s main event at Sunland could be a big one with 12 horses listed as probable or possible. The one that stands out the most for me would be Conquest Mo Money with an overall Horse Ration Nation rating of 5.45. Trained by Miguel Hernandez, this three-year old New York-bred colt is coming off a big victory in the ungraded Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland on Feb. 26. He bested a field that included Irap and Oh So Regal over the 1 1/16 miles and still looked like he had plenty of gas in the tank to handle the added distance of this race.
The son of Uncle Mo with a progeny that can be traced back to In Excess is still somewhat of a question mark since he did not run competitively as a juvenile and last month’s victory was his only race this season. However, I still think he has what it takes to make a run at a spot in the Kentucky Derby field starting with a win on Sunday.
My second choice for the Sunland Derby would be trainer Todd Pletcher’s Hedge Fund. This is another three-year old with very little racing experience, but much like my pick to win this race, the upside on this Kentucky-bred colt is high enough to put him in the mix on Sunday. He ran fifth in a Maiden Special Weight race at Gulfstream Park in mid-December in his only race as a juvenile and in early February he made his 2017 racing debut with a victory in a MSW race at that same track over a distance of 1 1/16 miles at a time of 1:44.95.
Hedge Fund has yet to be rated by HRN, but that is likely to change following this race. The son of Super Saver appears to be primed to make his major graded stakes debut a memorable one.
Moving down the list of probable entries, I have locked in on Bronze Age as one of trainer Bob Baffert’s most promising three-year old projects this season. This Kentucky-bred colt will be making his major graded stakes debut after running in a trio of MSW races at Santa Anita over the course of his young career. He finished a distant eighth at a distance of seven furlongs in late December in his only race as a juvenile. He started this season with a sixth-place run at a distance six furlongs before excelling at a longer distance of one mile with a victory his last time out on Feb. 18.
This pedigree of Mineshaft has a progeny that can be traced all the way back to Seattle Slew. I am not sure he belongs in the same class with either of these horses, but I do believe that he belongs in the top three of Sunday’s race.
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