Though the Sunland Park Derby is contested in the midst of the 170-point Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve qualifiers, Sunday’s stakes – which will be held at Sunland Park for the first time since 2019 – offers only 85 points to the top four finishers. Nevertheless, with a $500,000 purse and the top prize of 50 points enough to secure a spot in the field for the Run for the Roses, the Grade 3 stakes managed to lure a balanced field of eight 3-year-olds who should be happy to have a lucrative alternative to facing the West Coast’s top 3-year-olds in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby.
sunland park derby
1. Costa Terra (8-1 morning-line odds): Winless since breaking his maiden at five furlongs in July, he has the kind of late kick that should be suited by the distance. Yet his speed figures are too bland to get excited about his chances.
2. Classic Moment (7-2): He was third in the prep for this stakes, the Mine That Bird Derby, while forced to rally five wide. Gets an inside post and a positive rider switch in adding Eclipse Award winner Joel Rosario. Put it all together and he seems ready for a better showing today.
3. Fowler Blue (20-1): Didn’t show much of a closing kick in the Mine That Bird while checking in fourth. He’ll need to take a big step forward to be a major factor.
4. Slow Down Andy (2-1): A sixth-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford was puzzling after he defeated the highly regarded Messier before that in the Los Alamitos Futurity. He adds blinkers here and has been working sharply, installing confidence that he’s ready for a good, bounce-back effort.
5. Bye Bye Bobby (9-2): A pair of second-place finishes in stakes over the track, including the Mine That Bird Derby, bode well for his chances to be a major factor here. His trainer, Todd Fincher, won the 2018 edition of this stakes and is winning at 22% clip at the meet. He’s definitely worth a look here.
6. Pepper Spray (15-1): He was a game winner of the Riley Allison Derby, beating Bye Bye Bobby, then was a dull seventh in the Mine That Bird. He put in a sharp work for this race and seems capable of producing an improved effort.
7. Chrome King (15-1): He has plenty of racing experience with 10 lifetime starts but an eighth-place finish in the Allison paints him as an overmatched longshot here.
8. Straight Up G (5-2): He shipped in from Santa Anita Park and posted a gate-to-wire victory in the Mine That Bird as an even-money favorite. He could be tough to catch, though the added distance and outside post may work against him.
THE PICK: Slow Down Andy
LIVE LONGSHOT: Pepper Spray