Value Shopping at the Sunland Derby

Sunland Derby Winner Will Qualify for Kentucky Derby

The road to the Kentucky Derby continues on Sunday, March 26 with the $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park, a 1 1/8-mile race in New Mexico that offers 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner. This race is worth watching, as some of the horses may run in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20.

The race has an abundance of speed from the 12 horses entered, and Sunland Park has a tendency to favor front-runners and speed horses. Trainer Bob Baffert, winner of three of the last four editions of this race, saddles one of the favorites in #3 Bronze Age, who has showed tremendous early speed in his first two races before tiring. He stretched out well when going a mile in modest fractions, and now has to carry his speed an additional eighth of a mile against more front-running pressing challengers. .

Shopping for value and betting #10 Balandeen (10-1) should be worth a wager. Balandeen showed significant potential as a 2-year-old, winning a couple of races at Del Mar and Churchill Downs before finishing second behind Kentucky Derby favorite McCraken in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes. He appeared a bit off in form, but Balandeen, like many others, didn’t take to the Delta Downs surface in the Nov. 19 Delta Downs Jackpot (G3).

Balandeen was freshened, and the second race was the March 4 Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn Park, which marked Balandeen’s first race in 3 ½ months. While he could only finish third, the race was clearly a prep for bigger races down the road, and Balandeen even received special permission to continue running past the finish line, essentially turning the race into a “paid workout.”

Now, Balandeen is making his second start off the layoff, and his pedigree suggests that he’ll have no trouble with the distance of the Sunland Derby — his sire (father) is Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini and his dam (mother) is Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes winner Mamma Kimbo. Balandeen is likely sitting on a big effort, and at 10-1 on the morning line, I think he’s worth playing on top and underneath in exotic wagers as well. .

Here’s a thought on how to bet the Sunland Derby for a decent score:

Wagering Strategy on a $32 Budget

$8 to win-place on #10 Balandeen ($16)

$2 exacta: 3,10 with 2,3,10 ($8)

$2 exacta: 3,10 with 4 ($4)

$1 exacta: 3,10 with 11 ($2)

$1 exacta 10 with 3, 12 ($2)

For a larger bankroll, wager a bit more on #10 Balandeen across the board and tie in with these horses in exacta on top and bottom with #10 Balandeen, and in trifeca’s and superfecta (1,2,3,4,5,12)


Sunland Park Quarantine Could End Next Week

Sunland Park Quarantine Against EHV-1 Scheduled to be Lifted March 9

State officials have set March 9 as the date which Sunland Park Racetrack will no longer be under Livestock Board quarantine. Sunland Park has been caught in an outbreak of an equine herpes virus, and the news comes after a horse tested positive for the virus last week.

The infected horse was not entered to race but others in neighboring stables were. Those horses have been quarantined as a precaution. Nearly 70 horses in New Mexico have been infected and two cases have been documented in El Paso County, Texas.

If final approval is granted by the New Mexico Livestock Board, Sunland Park will open its barn area to outside horses and allow horses currently stabled on site to travel offsite.

Sunland Park General Manager Rick Baugh said “It has been a tough few weeks and I want to thank everyone for their hard work and understanding”. He goes on to say “This virus is very serious and all our focus and resources have been dedicated to reducing its impact. I’d like to thank all parties involved for their help.”

The outbreak at the track along the Texas-New Mexico border began in January. Sunland Park took immense precaution to contain and reduce the spread of the virus with the assistance of the New Mexico Livestock Board. Beginning in late January, the property underwent a full barn area quarantine which included nearly 1,600 horses. Biohazard protocols for preventing the spread of the virus were distributed with local horseman trained by New Mexico State Veterinarian Dr. Eckoff. Foot baths to equipment cleaning and storage to twice daily temperature testing were covered. Additional veterinarians were brought in to assist with testing of horses and daily inspections along with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

The racetrack also added multiple compliance officers and 30 extra security guards to patrol the grounds focusing on restricted areas and appropriate biohazard procedures.

Over 342 EHV tests were run in an effort to identify horses with the virus and reduce the spread with 68 unique horses testing positive. The virus was contained to 4.2% of the barn area.