Govenor Charlie steamrolled his rivals by 5 lengths in a dominating track record setting performance in the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) on Sunday and earned 50 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby.
His performance was an exclamation point for owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert who also dominated the $200,000 Sunland Parks Oaks with the exquisite filly Midnight Lucky.
Govenor Charlie, the second of two Midnight Lute offspring to showcase immense talent at Sunland Park on Sunday was well bet down to 6-5 favoritism and delivered a commanding performance. Under jockey Martin Garcia, Govenor Charlie was well placed down the backstretch of the 1 and 1/8 mile Grade 3 Kentucky Derb prep race. The colt gathered up momentum and took the lead at the three eighths pole.
When challenged at the top of the stretch by long shot Show Some Magic, Govenor Charlie responded eagerly for Garcia and shot clear. Garcia said, “Bob told me to ride with confidence. We were on the front and I felt like I had a lot of horse. He can wait on company sometimes, but at the top of the stretch he just took off and exploded.”
The promising three-year-old rumbled through the stretch and set a new course and stakes record for the distance in a fast 1:47.54, besting the former mark held by Winsham Lad of 1:48.20 held since 1961. Garcia added, “I feel he is a special horse. In only his second race going a distance, he beat good ones. Just look at how he did it.”
Pegram became the first owner to win two Sunland Derbies (Gr. III). He won the 2006 edition (formerly the WinStar Derby with Wanna Runner. The victory was worth $400,000 and virtual ticket to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. The winner’s check was a cool $400,000, not a bad payday for the sophomore’s second career win.
The popular runner was coming off a Santa Anita maiden win on Feb. 17.
Pegram said in a post race interview, “It’s a pretty good day. He has been training real good. He broke out, battled and had something left at the end. We didn’t figure the extra eighth of a mile would be an issue. He is getting better with each race. Martin told him to go, and he went.”
Riley Allison Futurity winner Show Some Magic ran a gallant race at 26-1 odds for local owners Kirk and Judy Robison. The Henry Dominguez trainee made a bold move on the far turn and was threatening the winner. Under jockey Luis Contreras, the Any Given Saturday colt ran well but could not stay with the winner. He earned $176,000 and 20 qualifying points the 2013 Kentucky Derby.
The Distorted Humor colt Abraham vied on the inside for command under jockey John Velazquez. The Todd Pletcher trained student fought valiantly but ended up a distant third, beaten over 8 lengths.
San Vicente Stakes (Gr. 2) winner Shakin It Up came in fourth for Baffert and owners Pegram and Cardoza. The Midnight Lute colt tried his best but could not muster his usual stretch kick.
Midnight Lucky scored a dynamic track record setting win in the $200,000 Sunland Oaks. She scored a 6-length win under jockey Rafael Bejarano and trainer Bob Baffert. The budding star is owned by Watson, Pegram and Weitman.