2014 Sunland Derby Picks – Analysis

2014 Sunland Derby Picks and Analysis - Tough guy Chitu the pick, Rebranded longshot

Sunland Derby-G3, Race 11, Sunland Park, Sunday, March 23, 2014

3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8-miles, Dirt, Purse: $800,000

2014 Sunland Derby Picks

1. Chitu

2. Commissioner

3. Rebranded

4. Midnight Hawk

2014 Sunland Derby Analysis

The $800,000 Sunland Derby sets up for a rallier but we’re going to go against the grain and pick a horse that looks like he’s sitting on a big race, Chitu.

Chitu has the looks of a tough guy horse based on his second place finish in the Robert B. Lewis-G2 at Santa Anita on February 8. In that race he prompted the pace, put away the inside speed into the stretch, and turned back fellow SunlandDerby entrant and stablemate Midnight Hawk to his outside in the drive before finally succumbing to Candy Boy late. He was only beaten half a length and it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying in his first stakes try after going 2-for-2 in his first two lifetime starts.

Chitu can come from just off the pace or go to the lead. If he gets the lead by himself he will be very tough to catch. If someone goes with him they won’t be around at the end of the race. A better scenario for Chitu would be for him to sit just off the cheaper speed and take over into the stretch. We’re thinking he’s ready to make a big move forward and although we’re uncertain of his ability to get the 1 1/8-miles, his jockey Matt Garcia teamed up with trainer Baffert to win this race last year with Govenor Charlie.

The other class speed in the Sunland Derby is Chitu’s stablemate Midnight Hawk, who ran a strong race in defeat behind California Chrome in the San Felipe-G2 at Santa Anita on March 8. Midnight Hawk can also press the pace or go to the lead and it will be interesting to see which horse Baffert sends early to challenge the cheaper speed in here, which includes recent Santa Anita and Gulfstream maiden breakers Garen and Global Strike as well as Smarty Jones Stakes winner Tanzanite Cat, more recently fifth beaten 10 lengths in the Southwest Stakes-G3 at Oaklawn Park.

Most of the name horses in the Sunland Derby are here for one reason, to earn preference points for the Kentucky Derby. The winner will receive 50 points, while the next three finishers will earn 20, 10 and five points respectively.

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Trainer Todd Pletcher, like Baffert, has two horses entered. His Global Strike will likely be sent early to set the race up for his more heralded entry mate Commissioner. The latter comes into the race off a sixth place finish at 3-1 in the Fountain of Youth-G3 at Gulfstream Park on February 22. He’ll get blinkers on for this race and the likely pace scenario should work in his favor. He’s also one of only two horses in this race who have won at the 1 1/8-mile distance, the other being Global Strike.

If either of the Baffert trainees Midnight Hawk or Chitu gets loose early they could be long gone, but the likelihood of a pressured pace technically favors a rallier. If Commissioner doesn’t fire, Rebranded would be our longshot choice off his second place finish in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park on February 22. Conditioned by leading trainer Justin Evans, who is currently operating at a 31 percent win clip, Rebranded is a rallying type with a race over the track and is listed at 12-1 on the morning line as he moves up in class for this race. He’s also donning blinkers for the first time.

Another possible longshot is Bourbonize, who rallied to win his first two starts before finishing sixth in the Southwest Stakes-G3 at Oaklawn Park on February 17. And a real flyer for your Superfectas in the bottom slots would be Lawly’s Goal, a rallying second in the Turf Paradise Derby on February 22. He would likely need a complete pace meltdown to finish in the top four, but at long odds as a rallier he’s worth using on the bottom.

We’ll be playing Chitu to win and place with Rebranded as our longshot.

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Good Luck!