Firing Line set a new track record in his Sunland Park Derby victory. (Photos by Coady Photography)
Escaping the shadow of familiar rival Dortmund by traveling to Sunland Park for the $800,000 Sunland Park Derby on March 22, Firing Line showed just how good he is.
Firing Line broke from the first post position and ran less than a length behind the leader, keeping his spot on the rail. Jockey Gary Stevens let Firing Line out just a notch close to the far turn and the colt took over the lead, pulling away by a few lengths.
It was easy sailing from there as Stevens first urged the colt a little bit before sitting chilly on him as they pulled away in what looked like a paid workout. Where’s The Moon, who had gone off at 11.40-to-1 was second with Pain And Misery third at 24.60-to-1.
The Sunland Park Derby was a major change in pace for Firing Line, who has battled with Dortmund in California the last two starts. Their battles started in the Los Alamitos Futurity last December when Dortmund beat Firing Line by just a head. In the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 7, it looked like Firing Line may have Dortmund’s number when he had the lead in the stretch but he showed his greenness when he lost focus and Dortmund came back to win by another head.
Stevens praised Firing Line’s mind after the race and was happy to get an easy race into him after his battles with Dortmund.
“What an ideal trip, it looked a lot simpler than it was out there,” Stevens said. “I didn’t like it when we drew the one hole. The race was loaded with other pace but this colt, he probably handled things a lot better than I did out there. He makes easy work of it and the best thing he’s got going for him is his mind. He’s way beyond his only four race career right now as far as where he is mentally. He was battle tested in his last race against Dortmund so it was nice to kind of get an easy one into him today.”
FIRING LINE'S CONNECTIONS IN THE WINNER'S CIRCLE
The official margin of victory for Firing Line was 14 ¼ lengths with the colt covering the 1 1/8 miles in a time of 1:47.39, breaking the old track record.
Firing Line was bought for $240,000 as a 2-year-old in training after going through the ring both as a weanling and yearling. Bred by Clearsky Farms, Firing Line races for Arnold Zetcher and is trained by Simon Callaghan. Firing Line punched his ticket to Louisville with this win and ends the 50 point race series with a total of 58 points, ranking sixth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Going off as the 1-to-5 favorite, Firing Line paid $2.40 to win. For a chart of the race, click here.
For the seventh time in nine years, Bob Baffert took home the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks on the undercard, this time with Maybellene. However, Maybellene wasn't the Baffert to cross the wire first with race favorite Callback the first to cross the line before getting disqualified and placed fourth after interference in the stretch.
Maybellene sat just a few lengths off her fellow Baffert trainee and looked like she may be able to catch Callback when that filly veered toward the rail. Maybellene didn’t have enough to pass Callback, but was only a neck behind her at the wire. Before the fillies had finished galloping out, both an inquiry and an objection was lodged and Callback was demoted to fourth with Maybellene, owned by Baffert’s wife Jill, taking the blanket of flowers.
The 1 1/16 mile race was covered in a time of 1:42.90 with Maybellene paying $9.80 to win on a $2 ticket. To see an Equibase chart, click here.