Shapiro on California-based runners in Sunday's stakes at Sunland Park
by SCOTT SHAPIRO
It is the biggest day of the meet Sunday at Sunland Park and of course that means an influx of Southern California-based horses into the New Mexico venue.
Here is a quick look at the Golden State-based runners in three of the days biggest races:
Race 8: $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap
#5 Shenandoah Queen- The Hronis Racing mare stole an overnight stakes race on the front end last summer at Del Mar, but has failed to hit the board in four straight since. She is unlikely to make an easy lead like that on Sunday under jockey John Velazquez. 3-1 is too short for me.
#6 Faypien- This Baoma Corporation filly makes the first start of her four-year-old campaign after winning 3 of 7 in 2017 for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. She has done most of her best running at one turn thus far, but did win the Summer Oaks (G2) at this mile and a sixteenth distance last June. Not crazy about 7-2, but she can win.
Race 9: $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial
#6 Blameitonthlaw- This five-year-old makes his first start off a seven-month layoff for trainer John Sadler. The son of Blame’s best races are good enough to beat this group, but he very well could need one off the bench. I prefer Blue Azul, but if he is ignored on the toteboard he is worth a look.
Race 11: $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3)
#1 All Out Blitz- The Kaleem Shah homebred stretches out to two turns for just the second time in his career after a well-beaten third to Kanthaka in the San Vicente (G2) last month. Expect veteran California rider Martin Garcia to send from the rail, find a prominent spot on or just off the early pace and hope the mile and an eighth is not too long. At 4-1, I prefer the value others offer, but a major contender nonetheless.
#2 Dark Vader- This $150,000 OBS March 2017 purchase enters the Sunland Derby with just a nose victory in a maiden special weight event at Los Alamitos last December for trainer Peter Eurton. He took on winners for the initial time in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) where he stalked early and held on late to finish third. The 83 BRIS speed rating was a noticeable step back from his career best 91 mark set in his first win. If he can take a step forward after the regression in the Lewis he could “beef up” the exotics at the very least.
#5 Peace- This Violence colt comes off of two off the board efforts in graded stakes events going a route of ground. The Richard Mandella trainee has been a cut below the top three-year-olds in Southern California and appears a bit overmatched on Sunday. The fact he was able to get back to a 90 BRIS speed rating in the San Felipe (G2) last time is somewhat encouraging, but I prefer others.
#9 Choo Choo- The winner of the Cal Derby two-back over Golden Gate’s synthetic surface comes off a disappointing fifth-place finish in the El Camino Real Derby (G3). The son of English Channel has shown an affinity for the turf and the synth, but not the dirt. Until he does he is hard to endorse in a spot like this.
Good luck at the big day of racing in New Mexico!
Faypien photo courtesy of Benoit