Baffert, Pletcher & O’Neill well-represented but local horses merit respect in Sunland stakes

Profile Picture: James Scully

March 20th, 2016

Sunland offers a pair of stakes for 3-year-olds on Sunday, the $415,000 Sunland Park Festival of Racing and $200,000 Plum Pretty for fillies, and trainers Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher and Doug O’Neill have shippers in each event that will take plenty of betting action.

I’ll make a case for a couple of locally-based contestants.

K P Wildcat will bring a 3-for-3 mark into the 1 1/16-mile Plum Pretty, rolling to a 7 ¾-length decision most recently in her first two-turn start, the February 26 Island Fashion, and trainer Weston Martin considered taking on males following the eye-catching performance. She’s 2-for-2 over the track and is listed as the 7-2 third choice on the morning line.

A class check awaits against the likes of Pletcher’s Thrilled (7-5 m/l) and Baffert’s Family Tree (2-1), but those fillies are making their first appearance of the year along with O’Neill’s Where’s the D (4-1). And none of the trio has ever run fast, with BRIS Speed ratings in the mid-80s to their credit.

K P Wildcat couples an affinity for Sunland with a serious fitness advantage over her main rivals, and the improving filly registered a field-best 93 BRIS Speed rating two back. And while she dropped to an 80 last time, extremely slow internal fractions contributed heavily to the lower number. The stalker figures to sit just off moderate fractions before offering her best; I’ll be playing her as the expected third choice in the wagering.

The 1 1/8-mile Sunland Park Festival of Racing has a formidable favorite in Collected, winner of the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita two back and fourth most recently in the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn for Baffert. The hard-trying colt easily tops the field in BRIS Prime Power, with a 7.3-point advantage over the nearest rival, but he’s never distinguished himself from a Speed-figure perspective, recording numbers in the upper 80s in the last two.

Collected likes to race on or very close to the lead and is likely to face pace pressure. Gettysburg drew a difficult outermost post in the 12-horse field and will have to use his speed to avoid being caught wide. A facile wire-to-wire maiden winner two starts back, the Pletcher representative didn’t make the early lead last time in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and wound up a well-beaten fifth as the 8-5 favorite. Look for Javier Castellano to send from the break.

Found Money, a front-running stakes winner for O’Neill, could add to the pace along with a couple of locally-based runners.

The projected pace scenario favors Concord Fast, who broke through with a four-length tally in the February 26 Mine That Bird at Sunland. The chestnut gelding making his first start of the year and Sunland debut for trainer Justin Evans, and registered an outstanding 106 BRIS Late Pace rating after rallying from eighth to first with a smart turn of foot. He hails from the first of crop of Grade 2-winning sire Concord Point (a son of Tapit and half-brother to 2016 Kentucky Oaks contender Off the Tracks).

Concord Fast appeared to take a big step forward in his sophomore reappearance and should receive the right set-up for another late burst. He’s the probable fourth choice in the wagering (6-1 m/l) and I’ll take a stab at the value.

Good luck!

Photos of K P Wildcat (first) and Concord Fast (second) courtesy of Coady Photography Players who cash $20 or more in winning tickets on the Sunland Festival of Racing program this Sunday will earn 20X Points for all wagers on the card