Kentucky Derby 2018 trail: Sunland Derby odds and analysis

In what’s essentially a “win and you’re in” race toward qualifying for the 2018 Kentucky Derby, Sunday’s Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby attracted a full field of 12 horses, many of whom look eligible to take a step up.

And the best part about shipping to New Mexico for this race? None of the established big names on the Kentucky Derby trail are in the way.

Post time for Race 11 at Sunland Park is 7:15 p.m. ET, with the Derby points allotted on a 50-20-10-5 basis to the Top 4 finishers. Here’s a look at the field with morning line odds:

1. All Out Blitz, 4-1 (Concord Point — Simon Callaghan/Martin Garcia — 5: 1-1-2 — $75,240): The Kaleem Shah homebred was nominated late to the Triple Crown series this week and is multiple stakes placed, with a runner-up effort to McKinzie in his other Derby trail start, January's Grade 3 Sham Stakes. Back to two turns after running third in the Grade 2 San Vicente last out, this one should be on or near the early lead. Callaghan won this race in 2015 with Firing Line, the eventual Kentucky Derby runner-up. Fits well in this wide-open race.

2. Dark Vader, 15-1 (Tale of Ekati — Peter Eurton/Stewart Elliot — 5: 1-1-1 — $55,845): There were high hopes for this one going into the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis off a fourth-out maiden win, but Lombo simply out-ran Dark Vader, who was second for most of the race until fading in the stretch. His recent works are sharp, however, an indication the colt could be improving. He’ll be among those looking to press the pace, but hasn’t given any indication he wants to go this long. Others look like better exotics plays.

3. New York Central, 9-2 (Tapit — Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana Jr. — 4: 2-1-1 — $104,600): He's carrying the flag for the Asmussen barn with local Mine That Bird Derby winner Reride headed overseas for the UAE Derby. This one exits a neck allowance win in the mud and over a nice field Feb. 19 at Oaklawn Park. He also beat winners in January. But note: Back on Jan. 13, eventual Grade 2 Risen Star winner Bravazo took a companion event while going almost two seconds faster than New York Central. That doesn’t mean New York Central can’t contend here, but it takes some shine off his record. One to have on your tickets.

4. Hollywood Star, 6-1 (Malibu Moon — Dale Romans/Robby Albarado — 5: 1-2-0 — $126,520): Romans appeared befuddled that this colt didn’t perform better to open his campaign when fourth in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. Since then, Hollywood Star has worked over both turf and dirt, with this spot selected over last weekend’s Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks. Second off the layoff, he could prove dangerous if solid form in the mornings can translate. He has potential, placing in two previous graded stakes races. Deserves win pick consideration.

5. Peace, 12-1 (Violence — Richard Mandella/Drayden Van Dyke — 5: 1-2-0 — $79,800): Defeated by eventual stakes winner Mourinho in his debut last fall, Peace developed into a wise-guy choice entering his stakes debut in the Bob Lewis. But he ran fifth that day, then was a distant fourth in the Grade 2 San Felipe that featured the McKinzie-Bolt d’Oro duel to the finish. He has raced both with and without blinkers lately. Mandella’s runners typically improve with age, and it’s a sign of confidence he’s running back on two weeks’ rest. Could be dangerous, but may be over-hyped.

6. Shane Zain, 15-1 (Medaglia d’Oro — Doug O’Neill/Terry Thompson — 5: 1-0-0 — $49,260): O’Neill found success shipping a West Coast-based Blended Citizen for last week’s Jeff Ruby Steaks. Here, he'll send Midwest-based Shane Zain, who was fifth in New York Central’s last win at Oaklawn Park. We’ll give him a pass, as the surface came up muddy. Two starts back, Shane Zain broke his maiden going a mile over a fast track. Still, that performance doesn’t put him on equal footing with the contenders here. Doesn’t look like a live longshot.

7. Prince Lucky, 6-1 (Corinthian — Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez — 5: 3-0-1 — $134,690): Transferred from Larry Jones to Pletcher, this previous stakes winner held his own in a recent morning workout with Grade 2 Holy Bull winner Audible, who will be among the Florida Derby favorites next out. He didn’t fire, finishing seventh in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes in his last race. That also marked the colt’s two-turn debut. Perhaps he’s eligible to improve in a new training program. He’ll certainly take money. It’s tough to know what to expect from him.

8. Seven Trumpets, 6-1 (Morning Line — Dale Romans/Luis Contreras — 5: 2-1-0 — $106,400): The other Romans charge here doesn’t get much of an excuse for the muddy Oaklawn going in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes. Why? Because a month before that, he nearly beat multiple stakes winner Firenze Fire on a similarly boggy surface in Aqueduct’s Jerome Stakes. Seven Trumpets hasn’t run two turns yet over a fast track. But given how Firenze Fire has run since the Jerome, posting declining numbers, there’s not much of a case to state. Looks like a toss.

9. Choo Choo, 8-1 (English Channel — Jerry Hollendorfer/Mario Gutierrez — 7: 2-0-2 — $117,188): The win pick by many for the El Camino Real Derby, he instead put in a flat fifth-place run last out. Two starts back, however, Choo Choo won a stakes race over the same surface. There’s nothing to question with his connections, as this one’s a Calumet Farm homebred. But the colt has run just once on dirt back in September when making his debut at Los Alamitos. Blinkers come off. A solid runner, but not against this level.

10. Dream Baby Dream, 10-1 (Into Mischief — Steve Asmussen/Alfredo Juarez — 7: 1-0-4 — $71,643): A one-turn maiden winner last fall at Churchill Downs, he hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since. And in that aforementioned Bravazo allowance score, he was nine lengths behind the leaders for third as they fought to the wire. It would take a major step up and a pace collapse for this late runner to factor. Blinkers go on. Not a contender.

11. Runaway Ghost, 8-1 (Ghostzapper — Todd Fincher/Tracy Hebert — 6: 3-2-0 — $163,510): A local favorite, he was second by 2 1/2 lengths in the Mine That Bird Derby, with the rest well back of him and Reride. Runaway Ghost set the early fractions and didn’t give in until late. But while he has seen the best in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity, he hasn’t come as close to beating them as others in here, mainly All Out Blitz and Hollywood Star. Appears to lack the class.

12. Fortified Effort, 20-1 (Ez Effort — Kevin Eikelberry/Ry Eikleberry — 9: 4-2-2 — $147,398): Another local runner, he’s missed the board just once in nine starts but didn’t have anything for Runaway Ghost when they met Jan. 28 in Sunland’s Riley Allison Stakes. Just take a pass.

All Out Blitz and Hollywood Star look like the logical top win contenders here, with either of them ready to prove themselves Kentucky Derby-ready. The former has shown consistency and should appreciate dodging the West Coast’s best. He’s not the next Firing Line, but is good enough to earn a trip to Churchill Downs here. New York Central looks third-best behind that pair. Prince Lucky is the horse I’d like to toss, but you never know with the barn switch, and the last workout was promising.


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