Submitted by Gasper Moschera on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM
Sunland Park Derby draws field of nine; Commissioner to add blinkers
Commissioner, who earlier this year won an allowance over the well-regarded Top Billing, will add blinkers for the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Park Derby on Sunday, said his trainer, Todd Pletcher. The horse was one of nine entered in the 1 1/8-mile stakes when the field was drawn Wednesday. Others set to start include the Pletcher-trained Global Strike; Southern California invaders Midnight Hawk, Chitu, and Garen; and local stakes winner Rebranded.
The Sunland Derby is one of seven stakes on the richest program of the meet. The races are worth a cumulative $1.4 million. The card includes the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, which lured a field of six, including Grade 2 Santa Ynez winner Awesome Baby from Santa Anita and Pletcher trainee Lucky for You from Gulfstream Park.
In his last race, Commissioner finished sixth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22. One start earlier, he won a 1 1/8-mile allowance over Top Billing, a leading Kentucky Derby hopeful who was recently sidelined.
Following the Fountain of Youth, Commissioner’s rider suggested he be fitted with blinkers.
“We’re just looking for a little more focus,” Pletcher said. “John Velazquez had ridden him last time and thought they might be helpful. We breezed him in them, felt like we noticed a favorable result, and we’ll give them a try.”
Velazquez has the mount on Commissioner, who races for WinStar Farm.
Global Strike, a maiden special weight winner at 1 1/8 miles last out at Gulfstream, is to be ridden by Javier Castellano. He is owned by Stonestreet Stable.
“Both horses are training well, and each horse complements the other’s style,” Pletcher said. “Global Strike has shown a little bit of speed, and Commissioner wants to settle midpack.”
Chitu, the runner-up in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis; Midnight Hawk, who was second in the Grade 2 San Felipe; and Garen, a maiden special weight winner last out at Santa Anita, all flew in Wednesday morning, said Sunland official Dustin Dix.
Bob Baffert has given the mount on Chitu to Martin Garcia, while the trainer has named Mike Smith on Midnight Hawk. Victor Espinoza has the mount on Garen for trainer Peter Miller.
The complete Sunland Derby field, in post-position order, is: Bourbonize, Ramon Vazquez; Garen; Commissioner; Global Strike; Tanzanite Cat, Norberto Arroyo Jr.; Lawly’s Goal, Irwin Rosendo; Midnight Hawk; Rebranded, Ry Eikleberry; and Chitu.
The Sunland Derby offers its first four finishers a total of 85 preference points for the Kentucky Derby, divided on a scale of 50-20-10-5. The race will go as the 11th on a 12-race Thoroughbred card that begins at 12:55 p.m. Mountain. Post for the Sunland Derby is 5:40 p.m., said Dix.