Sunland Park – Bob Baffert's Conveyance rates the 9-5 morning line favorite for this Sunday's Grade 3 $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.
Boosted in prestige with a large purse and a Grade 3 status, the Sunland Derby is the second richest Kentucky Derby prep race in North America. Consequently, Baffert is sending part of his "A" team. Baffert said, "This is definitely the best horse I've ever shipped to Sunland. We need our A team because this is a very nice field. Conveyance is a very talented horse. The trip to Sunland will be good for him." Horses are coming in from both coasts to compete for the $400,000 first prize check and an instant berth in the Kentucky Derby.
With an unbeaten record and two Grade 3 stakes wins in the Southwest and San Vicente Stakes, Conveyance earned his status as a solid favorite for the 1 and 1/8 classic. He and jockey Martin Garcia will break from the #3 post position in a field of nine. The striking grey-roan colt is likely to gain control of the pace heading into the first turn. The son of Indian Charlie has rarely been headed in any part of his part four races. His career earnings top the $254,000 mark. Owned by the Zabeel Racing International Corporation, Conveyance showed plenty of speed and staying power over the dirt course at Oaklawn Park. He fended off a furious late run from Dublin to win the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes.
The Sunland Derby favorite shipped in comfortably from a Tex Sutton jet on Wednesday morning and was relaxing nicely in the Sunland Park stall this afternoon. He looked the picture of poise.
Baffert won the 2006 WinStar Derby with Wanna Runner. The Hall of Fame trainer won his first $100,000 stakes race at Sunland Park in the early 1980's.
Tempted to Tapit, runner-up in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stake at the Fair Grounds, was made the second choice at 3-1. Trained by Steve Klesaris, Tempted to Tapit ran a courageous second beaten less than 2 lengths to Discreetly Mine. He is usually forwardly placed in his races and is the most likely challenger to Conveyance. The grey-roan son of Tapit has earned over $103,000 from 1 win and 3 seconds in 5 career starts. David Cohen gets the call from the #9 post position.
Kelly Breen's Nacho Friend earned a 9-2 designation by the odds maker. The lighly raced colt was a close fourth to Backtalk in last summer's Grade 2 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. In his most recent outing on March 6, Nacho Friend finished third in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Monmouth Park riding legend Joe Bravo will be in the saddle.
Two-time WinStar Derby winning trainer Doug O'Neill brings in Classical Slew (6-1) with Southern California rider Tyler Baze. Robbie Albarado rides Endorsement (10-1) for the WinStar Farm.
$100,000 Borderland Derby winner Storming Saint (8-1) represents the local contingent with leading rider Luis Contreras.
Northern California invader Fog Alert is rated at 12-1 with jockey Alfredo Juarez. McKenna's Justice (15-1) with jockey Ken Tohill and Guiltbyassociation (20-1) with Isaias Enriquez round out the field.
The $1.4 million card on Sunday is bursting with great stakes action including the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks. Baffert's Ellafitz looks like a powerful force along with Harissa and local stakes sensation Queen Greeley. The $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Oaks, the $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Derby, the $125,000 La Coneja Stakes and the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap help make an all-Thoroughbred 13-race card.
Once again, Baffert appears loaded with the classy Freedom Star in the Harry Henson. The four-year-old Street Cry filly defeated Euphony in the Grade 3 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 6.
Daily Racing Form racing author Steve Davidowitz will be on hand for an informative seminar on Sunday morning starting at 11 a.m. in the Signature Showroom. Davidowitz will analyze the card and conduct a book signing. The session is free to the public.