Hence gets the gold in $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III)

Hence closed with a great flourish to stamp his ticket for the Kentucky Derby after winning the 14th running of the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) by an expansive three and three-quarter lengths at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino on Sunday. The rapidly improving Street Boss colt trained by Steve Asmussen earned 50 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby in front of robust crowd of 16,039 enthusiastic fans.

Under a brilliant ride from local jockey Alfredo Juarez, Jr., Hence took advantage of a hot pace and unleashed a wicked attack in the final quarter mile of the Kentucky Derby prep race at one and one-eighth miles. The rapidly improving colt launched his bid from 10th place at the half mile marker while Hedge Fund set a hot pace on the lead in 45.72 seconds. Hence went on the offensive by the second turn and was inhaling opponents.

The winner loomed large with a 5-wide move alongside Conquest Mo Money on the far turn. The duo swept on past the embattled Hedge Fund and the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) became a two-horse race heading into the stretch. Hence put a neck in front and gradually pulled away from the Mine That Bird Derby winner. In deep stretch, the battle was won and Hence stopped the clock in a fast 1:48.10, just missing the track record of 1:47.37 held by Proceed since 2015.

Juarez, Jr. said, “I knew there was a lot of speed in the race, so I was patient early. I swung him around horses to get a momentum point. After some left handed encouragement, he really started running big. This is by far my biggest win. I want to thank Steve Asmussen for using me.”

Hence collected a huge payday of $400,000 from his second career win for the legendary Calumet Farm of Lexington, Kentucky. His lifetime bankroll stands at $462,601. Racing at over 10-1 odds, Hence returned a healthy $23.60 to win for all his loyal supporters.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen last won the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) in 2012 with Daddy Nose Best.

Local hero Conquest Mo Money ran a tremendous race in second place for Judge Lanier Racing and trainer Miguel Hernandez. The Riley Allison Stakes and Mine That Bird Derby winner suffered his first defeat in four starts but ran very courageously. Responding boldly to jockey Jorge Carreno, Conquest Mo Money contended for the lead heading into the stretch and fought grudgingly throughout the final stages. The runner-up finished four and one-half lengths in front of third place finisher Hedge Fund.

Conquest Mo Money raced as the second favorite at 4-1 odds. He earned 20 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

Hedge Fund earned 10 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby following his third place finish. He is owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and SF Racing. Todd Pletcher is his trainer. Irap finished fourth and received 5 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby for Reddam Racing, Inc. while 5-2 favorite Bronze Age stumbled at the start and steadily fizzled out of contention.

Ghalia remains unbeaten, wins $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks

Ghalia staged a late run in the deep stretch to win the 16th running of $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks by a neck over a game Kell Paso.

Under jockey Jose Ortiz, Ghalia overcame a slow start and gradually picked up steam to overwhelm her rivals in the stretch. Todd Pletcher’s unbeaten filly by Medaglia d’Oro produced the winning move in her first attempt around two turns. She stopped the clock for the 1 and 1/16 miles in 1:44.24. The victory was worth $120,000 for winning owners, the Sumaya U.S. Stable. Ghalia earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks. She paid $6.00 to win as the 2-1 third choice.

Island Fashion Stakes runner-up Kell Paso ran another terrific race and fell just short. Greg Green’s star filly finished nearly 6 lengths in front of What What What.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography