Spot Plays for Sunland Derby Day

Profile Picture: Scott Shapiro

March 23rd, 2018

Fifty qualifying points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” leaderboard are on the line Sunday afternoon in New Mexico when a full field of three-year-olds break from the gate in the Grade 3 .

The featured event on a card that includes six other stakes offers horseplayers a number of challenging races to dissect. I focused my attention on the latter part of the card and came up with these two horses I plan to build my day around:

Race 8: Harry Henson Handicap

#2 K P Wildcat (4-1 ML)

This five-year-old mare makes her second start off the layoff for high percentage conditioner Weston Martin. The daughter of Include enters the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap with a career record of 10 for 15, including a perfect 4 for 4 at the distance and 5 for 7 at Sunland Park.

Martin brought back K P Wildcat back off a two and a half month layoff in the six and a half furlong El Diario Handicap and she came from a few lengths off the pace to win by a length in the end.  There appears to be plenty of early speed signed on for this eight-furlong event, which should allow jockey Roimes Chirinos to sit a perfect mid-pack trip and get the best of this group in the final furlong.

K P Wildcat probably faces a tougher group than she did last year when she won this race at odds of 5 to 2, but I think she will be up for the task on Sunday. At 3-1 or higher I will gamble on the locally based mare.

Race 9: Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes

#7 Blue Azul (6-1 ML)

The Bill Thomas Memorial is quite a wagering race. The $100,000 sprint drew a field of eleven with a lukewarm 4-1-morning line favorite. I like the chances of Blue Azul.

The son of Tizway cuts back to one turn after a stalk and fade effort in the $75,000 Curribot Handicap. Prior to that disappointing fifth place finish at a mile and a sixteenth the four-year-old gelding had won four straight since arriving in New Mexico, including a win going six panels on December 24th earning him a 91 BRIS speed rating.

Blue Azul might not win the Bill Thomas Memorial if the race shaped up differently, but I love the outside stalking trip he should get under jockey Frank Reyes. Reyes should be able to buy his time off the early pace of #3 Mt Veeder, get the best of that gelding when they turn for home and have enough left late to earn his fifth lifetime score. At anything 4-1 or higher I will be wagering on Blue Azul to win.

Hopefully these two spot plays can build your bankroll up for the big one, the Grade 3 Sunland Derby in Race 11!

Good luck!