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HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Is this all $800k and 85 points gets you?

Imagine, if you will, owning a three-year-old and entering him in an allowance race. Then imagine that someone tells you that the allowance type race is worth $800,000, and if you win it, you are in the Kentucky Derby. Sounds like a good deal for you as the owner of the young colt … but what about for everyone else? Welcome to the 2013 Sunland DerbyNot only couldn’t the bloated purse attract a good field, but not even the decision by Churchill Downs to include this race in their championship series level on its point schedule could muster up a race half way good enough to call itself a Kentucky Derby qualifier. It’s wasted money, and not fair to the horse that ends up 21st in the race to get into the Run for the Roses. Without further ado I give you the sorriest $800k race I could ever imagine.
Just Win Baby – Two maiden races on the resume so far. Sixth in the first one, he did come back and win the second try. He might have a class edge in here.
Abraham – Also has only two maiden races on his career past performances. Second in the first try, he came back to win the next one in the dazzling time of 1:52 4/5 for nine furlongs.
Stormdriver – Now we are talking … a horse with stakes experience. In four stakes races he is 0-for-4, with an 8th at Golden Gate and a well beaten 3rd against Arizona-breds.
Shakin It Up – The favorite and only graded stakes winner in the field. Keep in mind, though, that he has never been farther than seven furlongs, and the horse that ran 2nd to him last time just finished way back in the Rebel.
Saint Prado – Broke his maiden in his third try last out, but would seem to fit in well against this bunch.
Dry Summer – A consistent sort with four career wins; however, his three attempts in graded stakes have yielded three results of finishing up the track.
Govenor Charlie – Another with only a pair of maiden efforts so far. Having said that, he was very game in the win, and may prove the one to beat in what amounts to a very rich non-winner of one for him.
Mudflats – Is 1-for-5 lifetime, and finished 7th and 5th in his first two tries against stakes company.
Show Some Magic – I’ll sum up the most experienced horse in the field by saying he was beaten by 15 and 20 in his two stakes tries at Delta Downs.
This race is all you get for $800k, and the winner is all but ensured of entry into the Kentucky Derby … really? Sad. If I was Churchill Downs, I would null and void the point allotment before they enter the starting gate. If I was Sunland Park, I would demand a refund. They should just explain in the winner’s circle that they want a majority of the purse back due to extreme mediocrity. As a racing fan, I will draw a line through this one as a serious Kentucky Derby prep, and only hope they attract a better field next year.


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Older Comments about Is this all $800k and 85 points gets you?...

First year of the designated hitter in the American league drew similar disdain.
This question should be asked to the trainers and owners of the so-called Derby contenders who elected not to go in here. Maybe they believe the 6 weeks til KY Derby Day doesn't fit their horse? People (i.e. fans which include the 25k+ HRN members) need to realize plans are put in place for their 3 y.o. WEEKS if not MONTHS in advance. They don't wake-up one day and notice 7 days out that the Sunland Derby came up weak, so let's enter.
Totally agree, Brian. With not many tools to utilize, in handicapping this race, I tend to side with #2 Abraham. If W. Elliott Walden(former trainer & part of WinStar mgmt) goes to view this colt's workouts, I would think he's got a vested interest in the direction of this horse. So, that's my pick. Honest. Abraham.
From Jan 2010 to Sep 2012 I worked for a company at the Hot Springs airport. Benefit? Got to see the big guns arrive and depart 50 yards from our hangar. Saw Bodemeister last year. Bonus!
Yes, Brian come to the dark side and release your inner power...Hooppppaa. Really this field sucks. I'm not even watching, playing the GP Rainbow Pick Six, why not?
I agree with many who have already commented. Its hard to blame Churchill or Sunland Park, they did everything they could to get a top tier field. This one falls entirely on the connections. How long is the flight from Florida or CA to Sunland Park, and how long is the flight from FL and CA to Louisville again?
It is hard to understand why this race drew such a weak field, do trainers not want to ship to New Mexico, is the track unsafe, are they worried about the altitude? You would think that at least one top horse would try for the money and points. I think the fields in the next few years will improve as the trainers adjust to the new point system.
buds is thinking what I'm thinking--about the winner of this race, and the currently top 3 year olds by-passing this opportunity. Passel of hounds or plenty of upside? I like the Midnight Lute cousins and Just Win Baby.
It would be funny if; the race ended in a dead-heat, the winner of this race went on to actually win the Kentucky Derby, a horse in this field became "HOTY", fans boycott the track due to lack of quality races. :P
Agreed with buds..Some trainers is going to have to explain why the skip the Sunland Derby if the come up short on points.
Not pulling any punches there.
Although I agree the field is less than stellar, we as fans should blame the trainers and connections period. Sunland Park and Churchill Downs put the purse money and points values long before the connections drew out their plans for each horses campaign. I should be able to draw a better field in my back yard if I put up $800K and 50 points. The horse that wins the race Sunday deserves to be in the derby just as much as Orb or Verazanno. To me its unbelievable that the trainers of some Derby hopefuls overlooked this race, if my horse was 21st in points and took 4th in the Florida Derby or the Wood, or beter yet the Blue Grass (4 weeks rest) my trainer would have some explaining to do.
Final time aside, I rather liked Abraham's maiden breaking win. In my opinion, he's one of the ones to beat.
You said it, Brian. The winner of this race does not deserve a spot in the Kentucky Derby field, but I think that this only points to other more important issues about the KDerby and how horses qualifiy for the field.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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