A Kentucky Derby 2023 ticket can be punched Sunday in New Mexico.
Hard to Figure is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Grade 3, $600,000 Sunland Park Derby. Post time from Sunland Park is 6:45 p.m. EDT, with FS1 and FanDuel TV showing the 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-old runners.
Click here for Sunland Park entries and results.
The Sunland Park Derby awards its top five finishers Kentucky Derby points on a 50-20-15-10-5 scale. Fifty points have been enough to make the Derby field each year since Churchill Downs instituted the points system before the 2013 race.
Hard to Figure is, however, ineligible for those Derby points because of trainer Bob Baffert’s Churchill suspension. He is among a group of 3-year-olds who stayed in the Hall of Fame trainer’s barn past the Churchill-imposed deadline for owners to move them.
The Hard Spun colt broke his maiden three starts back in Los Alamitos’s Capote Stakes and, in his last start, was third Feb. 4 at Santa Anita in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3). Jockey Flavien Prat has the mount for Baffert and owners Michael Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.
Henry Q (3-1) carries the shortest morning-line odds of the five runners eligible to earn Derby points Sunday. Trained by Todd Fincher, he has won two races in a row, including the local Mine That Bird Derby on Feb. 28 by a whopping 14 3/4 lengths.
How Did He Do That (9-2) won a Zia Park stakes race last November and exits a runner-up effort Jan. 29 in Sunland’s Riley Allison Derby. Trainer Steve Asmussen aims for a third victory in this event.
Low Expectations (6-1) dipped into maiden claiming ranks to win on fifth asking, then took a starter optional claiming race March 3 at Santa Anita. He climbs the class ladder onto the Kentucky Derby trail Sunday for trainer Antonio Garcia.
Mine That Bird is the only Sunland Park Derby graduate to then win the Kentucky Derby. He was fourth in New Mexico for trainer Chip Woolley before his upset at Churchill Downs.
Cutting Humor in 2019 was the last Sunland Park Derby runner to make the Kentucky Derby field. This race did not occur in either 2020 or 2021.
Here is a look at the field for the 2023 Sunland Park Derby (trainers and jockeys in parentheses) with morning-line odds:
1. How Did He Do That (Steve Asmussen, Alfredo Juarez Jr.), 9-2
2. Low Expectations (Antonio Garcia, Mario Gutierrez), 6-1
3. Fort Bragg, SCR
4. Henry Q (Todd Fincher, Edwin Maldonado), 3-1
5. One in Vermillion (Esteban Martinez, Harry Hernandez), 6-1
6. Hard to Figure (Bob Baffert, Flavien Prat), 2-1
7. Wild On Ice (Joel Marr, Ken Tohill), 20-1
TimeformUS pace projections show Hard to Figure making the early lead under Prat. Note that this model still shows the presence of Fort Bragg, who instead will run Saturday at Gulfstream Park in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1).
Visit Horse Racing Nation’s free past performances page for more information on this Kentucky Derby prep.
Prospective Kentucky Derby field
The top 18 points earners nominated for the Kentucky Derby will earn a spot in the starting gates for the Grade 1, $3 million race May 6. One spot is reserved for the top points earners on the European and Japanese Derby trails. Here is a look at who would make up the current field.
1. Two Phil’s, 123
2. Derma Sotogake, 100
3. Kingsbarns, 100
4. Forte, 90
5. Practical Move, 60
6. Confidence Game, 57
7. Angel of Empire, 54
8. Raise Cain, 54
9. Tapit Trice, 50
10. Jace’s Road, 45
11. Dura Erede, 40
12. Major Dude, 40
13. Rocket Can, 40
14. Disarm, 40
15. Sun Thunder, 34
16. Red Route One, 33
17. Instant Coffee, 32
18. Continuar, 30
Related: Ky. Derby bound: Kingsbarns wires 11 foes in Louisiana Derby | Two Phil's secures Ky. Derby slot with Jeff Ruby Steaks victory | Derma Sotogake owner: 'Of course' UAE winner will run in Ky.
Kentucky Oaks prep
Sunday’s Sunland card also features a race that pays points toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1) to its top five finishers on a 50-20-15-10-5 scale.
5:41 p.m. – $300,000 Sunland Park Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles, Sunland Park, FanDuel TV/FS1
Flying Connection (9-5) is the top local hope in Sunday’s Kentucky Oaks prep off an Island Fashion Stakes win Feb. 28 at Sunland by 9 1/4 lengths. Trainer Todd Fincher and jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr. team up with the Nyquist filly. Bob Baffert trains Doinitthehardway (2-1), whose Santa Anita score March 3 came in her fifth maiden race and sixth overall start. Una Palabra (5-1) stays in the Southwest but tries a new course after winning the Arizona Oaks on March 11 at Turf Paradise for trainer Vann Belvoir.
Prospective Kentucky Oaks field
1. Pretty Mischievous, 103
2. Southlawn, 100
3. Wet Paint, 70
4. Botanical, 70
5. The Alys Look, 54
6. Dorth Vader, 50
7. Mimi Kakushi, 50
8. Shidabhuti, 50
9. Wonder Wheel, 48
10. Hoosier Philly, 45
11. Red Carpet Ready, 35
12. And Tell Me Nolies, 30
13. Gambling Girl, 21
14. Dreaming of Snow, 20