Hard to Figure is not eligible for Kentucky Derby 2023, but the stakes winner nevertheless was made the 2-1 morning-line favorite for next Sunday’s 18th running of the Grade 3, $600,000 Sunland Park Derby, a points prep for the run for the roses.
The $200,000 Hard Spun colt owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman is trained by Bob Baffert, who remains under a Churchill Downs ban because of the late Medina Spirit’s disputed drug test from the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
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Worth 50-20-15-10-5 points to the top five finishers, the Sunland Park Derby would be a virtual win-and-you’re-in qualifier for the Derby, but that only applies to the other six 3-year-olds entered in the race scheduled for 6:45 p.m. EDT next Sunday. A second-place finish might not be enough to get to the starting gate May 6 in Louisville, Ky.
Flavien Prat will ride Hard to Figure from post 6 in the 1 1/8-mile race at the New Mexico track just outside El Paso, Texas. The colt’s only victory came in September in this third start. He and jockey Ramón Vázquez finished ahead of four other non-stakes winners in the $75,000 Capote Stakes at Los Alamitos.
Hard to Figure since finished fifth with Prat in the Bob Hope (G3) at Del Mar and came up a neck short of Newgate when he placed second in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) with Vázquez last month at Santa Anita.
Local favorite Henry Q (3-1), the second choice on the morning line, ran off to a 14-length victory last out Feb. 28 in the Mine That Bird Derby covering 1 1/16 miles of the same track as next weekend’s race. Edwin Maldonado retains the ride from post 4 for trainer Todd Fincher, who took over for Doug O’Neill after the $125,000 Blame colt owned by Fred Hertrich and John Fielding broke his maiden Feb. 4 at Santa Anita.
Fort Bragg (4-1), who was transferred from Baffert to Tim Yakteen last month, wheels back from a fifth-place finish March 4 in the San Felipe (G3) at Santa Anita. Because he was moved to Yakteen, the Tapit colt bought by SF Racing and its partners for $700,000 earned five points toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby. A two-time winner in maiden races last year, Fort Bragg will break with jockey Juan Hernández from post 3.
The long-range forecast from the National Weather Service said a clear day was expected for the Sunland Park Derby with a high near 71 degrees.