Midnight Hawk is the favorite to win the 2014 Sunland Derby, per Felix Chavez of The El Paso Times, but legendary trainer Bob Baffert's horse might see stiff competition from Todd Pletcher's Commissioner.
Those two horses have the most attractive odds heading into Sunday's Sunland Derby from Sunland, N.M.
The race is one of the Kentucky Derby preliminaries. The winner in New Mexico will receive 50 points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
Here's the schedule for the event, the post positions and odds.
When: Sunday, March 23 at 7:40 p.m. ET
(Odds per El Paso Times)
|1.||Bourbonize||Ricardo Vazquez||Kellyn Gorder||6/1|
|2.||Garen||Victor Espinoza||Peter Miller||10/1|
|3.||Commissioner||John R. Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||7/2|
|4.||Global Strike||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||8/1|
|5.||Tanzanite Cat||Norberto Arroyo, Jr.||Cody Autrey||6/1|
|6.||Lawly’s Goal||Irwin J. Rosendo||Kevin Eikleberry||20/1|
|7.||Midnight Hawk||Mike E. Smith||Bob Baffert||5/2|
|8.||Rebranded||Ry Eikleberry||Justin R. Evans||12/1|
|9.||Chitu||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||4/1|
Midnight Hawk Has Been Hot
Baffert's horse already has 32 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. It has won two of its four starts and looks like a horse on the incline.
Midnight Hawk will be guided by jockey Mike E. Smith. Smith won the Sunland Derby in 2009 aboard Kelly Leak. Per Chavez, Smith said this of Midnight Hawk's development and chances:
"Midnight Hawk is an improving horse. He's been really consistent so far and I think he's got a real shot. I feel comfortable aboard him. He has run against some really good horses and I think he'll adjust to the track in New Mexico just fine."
There are some limitations to Midnight Hawk's overall ceiling. Here's the synopsis on his pedigree from KentuckyDerby.com:
"Midnight Hawk's pedigree does not offer solid encouragement for his ability to handle 1 1/4 miles. Yet a case can be made that there's more than meets the eye."
Baffert personally conditioned Midnight Hawk's parents: Midnight Lute and Miss Wineshine.
Midnight Lute turned out to be a champion sprinter and there is hope that he passed on his talents.
Per Horse Racing Nation, Midnight Hawk has a horse rating of 7.56. That is the second-highest rating of any horse in the Sunland Derby field. The highest rating belongs to Midnight Hawk's toughest competition, Commissioner.
Commissioner is a Real Threat
Rated at 7.65 by Horse Racing Nation, Commissioner is not to be disregarded on Sunday. Per Mary Rampellini of the Daily Racing Form, Commissioner will be wearing blinkers for the Sunland Derby. Per Pletcher, this could give him the extra concentration he needs to be victorious.
Pletcher told Rampellini:
"We’re just looking for a little more focus. John Velazquez had ridden him last time and thought they might be helpful. We breezed him in them, felt like we noticed a favorable result, and we’ll give them a try.”
With so much at stake for the Kentucky Derby hopefuls, focus will be key for the horses.
Can Commissioner hold off Midnight Hawk and any unexpected challengers? We'll find out on Sunday.