Recent trends in the Sunland Park Derby

March 23rd, 2022

The recent history of the Sunland Park Derby (G3), which will be run Sunday with a purse of $500,000, has been affected to a great extent by external factors. The race itself has been canceled three times in the last six years, in 2016 due to an outbreak of the equine herpesvirus, and in 2020-21 due to the pandemic.

With just nine editions since 2010 to look at, here are recent trends in the Sunland Park Derby worth noting.

Locals have their work cut out

It's no surprise that classier shippers have generally dominated the Sunland Park Derby. Indeed, only one horse that made his previous start at Sunland has won the track's signature race, that being lukewarm favorite Runaway Ghost ($9.80) in 2018.

However, don't overlook locals for the minor spots. Among the four that completed the exacta since 2010 were longshots Show Some Magic (26-1, 2013) and Where's the Moon (11-1, 2015).

Baffert and favorites

Bob Baffert does not hold an entry in this year's Sunland Park Derby, but his record in the race is still instructive on one point.

In seven of the last nine editions of the race, a Baffert-trained horse started as the favorite. Only two of those seven won, two others placed at odds-on, and three others finished seventh or worse. The two non-Baffert favorites during the period in question won, including Firing Line (2015) at miserly odds of 1-5.

The takeaway? Be wary of favorites that look like relative standouts on paper.

First-time stakes winners excel

Like some other preps we've explored in this series, the Sunland Park Derby has generally been ripe for the taking by horses without prior stakes success. Since 2010, only Daddy Nose Best (2012) and Runaway Ghost were stakes winners prior to triumphing in Sunland Park's marquee race.