Firing Line scores record setting win in $800,000 Sunland Derby
Record crowd of 19,081 fans attends Sunland Derby
As advertised, Firing Line was just too much and marched away to a record setting 14 and one quarter length victory procession in the 13th running of the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Grade 3), March 22 at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino in front of a record crowd of 19,081 enthusiastic fans.
Bet down hard to 1-5 odds, Firing Line and Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens motored towards the lead down the backstretch run of the 1 and 1/8 mile Kentucky Derby prep race and never looked like a loser. Stevens asked for a bit of speed and Firing Line turned on some power around the final turn and the race was over. The talented son of Line of David began to pull well clear of the rivals. He responded with a terrific turn of foot and was 8 lengths in front by the middle of the stretch. Stevens simply hand rode the impressive winner to over a 14-length winning margin. The 14 and one-quarter length margin is a record winning margin for the Sunland Derby.
Stevens said, He did it all very professionally. Real easy. I’m in a great spot. He can do well at the next level.”
The awe inspiring win was also a track and stakes record of 1:47.39 eclipsing for the former track and stakes record of 1:47.54 held by 2013 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winner Govenor Charlie.
Firing Line earned the massive $400,000 pay day for winning owner Arnold Zetcher and earned a virtual berth in this year’s Kentucky Derby Derby by earning 50 qualifying points.
Mr. Zetcher said, “This is my third horse to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. I’ve owned horses for 13 years and Firing Line is one of the best. It was great effort today and he was ready to go and we are going to Kentucky. Simon is great trainer and the way he approaches the sport is perfect for Firing Line. Having Gary Stevens on board is a tremendous plus, and his experience will help us. We are so lucky. We have the oldest jockey and the youngest trainer. Firing Line is a really good horse. We won the 2009 Sunland Park Oaks with Gabby’s Golden Gal. We purchased Firing Line for $240,000 at the Keeneland Sale.”
Sunland’s newest sensation has been patiently developed by winning trainer Simon Callaghan who was beaming in the winner’s circle. Callaghan said, “This is very nice colt. He won well. We figured he was the best. He didn’t have to force a pace with quick fractions. In his training, he’s learned how to relax a lot and it paid off handsomely today. The Sunland Derby has been on a radar for a while. It is a nice ship from California. He trained well over the track and handled it well. He matured a lot in recent months. Those were major factors.”
Firing Line earned his first career stakes win following two narrow second place finishes to Dortmund in California. Firing Line’s second career win pushed his lifetime bankroll to $574,800. He has never been worse the second in 5 career outs.
Mine That Bird Derby winner Where’s The Moon finished a long distance second with Luis Contreras in the saddle. The well bred son of Malibu Moon earned 20 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby and a $176,000 paycheck for owners Kirk and Judy Robison of El Paso, Texas. The 11-1 shot tried to muster a rally in the final quarter mile but was absolutely no threat to the winner. The runner-up finished two and one-quarter lengths in front of Pain and Misery who earned $96,000 for the Black Gold Racing stable and 10 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby.
Tiznow R J, Dirt Monster, Why Two and Malibu Mogul rounded out the order of finish.
Maybellene wins $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks through disqualification
In mid-stretch, Callback had the lead but suddenly ducked into the path of a tiring Fancy and Flashy causing her jockey Norberto Arroyo to steady. In the meanwhile Callback straightened out under jockey Martin Garcia and fought off stablemate Maybellene by a neck at the wire of the 1 and 1/16 mile feature. Following a Stewards’ Inquiry, Callback (1-5) was disqualified from first and placed fourth behind Fancy and Flashy.
Maybelline was crowned the winner of the Sunland Park Oaks for owner Natalie J. Baffert and trainer Bob Baffert. The winning rider was Victor Espinoza. The daughter of Lookin at Lucky paid $9.80 to win and earned $120,000 for her connections.
Scat Means Go was moved up to second place followed by Fancy and Flashy and the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes winner Callback in fourth.
In a stirring effort, African Rose won the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap for the third straight year for trainer Justin Evans and rider Ry Eikleberry.
Jockey Ken Tohill and trainer Joel Marr combined forces to win three races on the day including the $100,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks with Desert Tricks and the $100,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby with Weather Dodger for owner Lisa Rehburg
Under a masterful ride from Enrique Gomez, Unfettered came rushing off the pace to take a rousing win in the $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes. Henry Dominguez is the winning trainer.
Sunland PK, NM – March 23, 2014 – Chitu generated a courageous winning performance and gave trainer Bob Baffert his third $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) crown on Sunday at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino in front of an all-time record crowd of 18,642 fans.