For the first time since 2019, the road to the Kentucky Derby will wind through New Mexico on Sunday.
Slow down Andy (2-1) is favored on the morning line for 3rd year, $500,000 Sunland Park Derby. Departure time from Sunland Park is 7:15 p.m. EDT, with TVG showing the 1 1/8 mile ride for 3-year-olds.
This race has been canceled each of the past two seasons due to the effects of COVID on the New Mexico racing industry. The run was last held in 2019 when Cutting Humor scored for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Sunland Park Derby awards Road to the Kentucky Derby points to its top four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 basis. Fifty points have been enough to make the Derby starting gates every year since Churchill Downs instituted the points system in 2013.
Favorite Slow Down Andy has competed in such a prep race before, running on February 19 at Fair Grounds in the Risen Star Stakes (G2). He was never better than fifth at any call and settled for an unthreatening sixth.
Trainer Doug O’Neill adds blinders for the Nyquist colt on Sunday at Sunland. Jockey Mario Gutierrez arrives from Southern California to ride the 2021 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) winner.
Straight Up G (5-2) is another California-bred invader for coach Richard Baltas. He came from Golden State to win the local Mine That Bird derby on Feb. 27 and is now looking to earn a ticket to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
Coach Steve Asmussen has a pair of Sunland Park Derby entrants in the third runner of Mine That Bird Classic Moment (7-2) and Costa Terra (8-1), who failed to hit the board during two previous Derby starts. Bye Bye Bobby (9-2), second in the Mine That Bird and the Riley Allison Derby, is coach Todd Fincher’s top local prospect.
Mine That Bird finished fourth in the Sunland Park Derby in 2009 before surprising the Kentucky Derby with a late train ride. Firing Line won this event in 2015 and then finished second to American Pharoah in Kentucky.
Related: Sunday Games: Local Horse is Able at Sunland Derby | Sunland Derby analysis: Taking a stand against Straight Up G
Here’s a look at the pitch for the 2022 Sunland Park Derby (trainer and jockey in brackets) with morning odds:
1. Costa Terra (Steve Asmussen, Luis Negron), 8-1
2. Classic Moment (Steve Asmussen, Joel Rosario), 7-2
3. Fowler Blue (Luis Mendez, Edwin Maldonado), 20-1
4. Slow Andy (Doug O’Neill, Mario Gutierrez), 2-1
5. Goodbye Bobby (Todd Fincher, Roimes Chirinos), 9-2
6. Pepper Spray (Edward Kereluk, Luis Valenzuela), 15-1
7. Chrome King (Miguel Hernandez, Enrique Garcia), 15-1
8. Straight Up G (Richard Baltas, Ricardo Gonzalez), 5-2
TimeformUS Rhythm Projections show Straight Up G going to the front under jockey Ricardo Gonzalez, with Slow Down favorite Andy among a trio of riders behind the leader.
Kentucky Derby points standings
Twenty places are available in the starting grids of the Kentucky Derby. Eighteen are available for the top points scorers on the North American track – which includes Saturday’s United Arab Emirates (G2) derby – while an invite can be issued to the top points earners nominated for the Triple Crown on European and Japanese tracks.
Here is an overview of the current projected field, with points earned:
1. Epicenter, 164
2. Crown Pride, 100
3. Classic Causeway, 66
4. An Ojo, 54
5. Simplify, 54
6. Forbidden Kingdom, 50
7. Morello, 50
8. Zozos, 40 years old
9. Happy smile, 30
10. Pioneer of Medina, 25 years old
11. Grantham, 21
12. Rattle N Roll, 20
13. Ethereal Road, 20
14. Island Hawk, 20
15. In due time, 20
16. Dean’s List, 20
17. Barber Road, 18
18. Papacap, 14
*19. Zandon, 14 years old
Japan – Geraldo Barrows, 14
*No riders who scored on the Kentucky Derby’s European route were named the Triple Crown on Saturday afternoon, so a 19and place is currently available for the North American qualifiers.
Related: Epicenter Sets Record, Wins Million Dollar Louisiana Derby | Crown Pride qualify for Kentucky Derby with victory at UAE Derby | The 3 for 3 filly Delicada wins the last preparation of the Kentucky Derby in Japan
Kentucky Oak Trail
Sunday’s action also includes the Sunland Park Oaks, a race that awards Road to the Kentucky Oaks points on a 50-20-10-5 basis. Here’s a preview of that event, which can be seen on TVG.
6:12 p.m. – $300,000 Sunland Park Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles
Optionality (3-1), winner of stakes at Remington Park and Zia Park, is looking to bounce back here after running sixth Feb. 26 at Oaklawn Park in the Honeybee Stakes (G3). Jockey Joel Rosario, after riding Saturday at Fair Grounds, comes to New Mexico to get a head start on filly Gun Runner for trainer Steve Asmussen. Peter Eurton coaches Queen of Thorns (4-1), finalist on February 6 at Santa Anita in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G3). Miss Hard Knocks (5-1) holds back-to-back victories at Sunland, including Island Fashion Stakes on Feb. 27, for trainer Bart Hone.
Kentucky Oaks points standings
Fourteen spots are available on the Kentucky Oaks route. Here is an overview of the current projected field, with points earned:
1. Echo Zulu, 130
2. Turnerloose, 60
3. Secret Oath, 60
4. Hidden connection, 57
5. Venti Valentine, 54 years old
6. Kathleen O., 50
7. Chahama, 50 years old
8. Magic Circle, 23
9. Fire Goddess, 22
10. Shotgun hottie, 21
11. Nest, 20
12. It’s not easy, 20
13. Favor, 20
14. Classy Edition, 20
Related: Echo Zulu Struggles Late But Still Wins Fair Grounds Oaks