Sunland Derby

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Sunland Derby

Sunland Derby Race Facts

  • Location: Sunland Park Racetrack – Sunland Park, NM
  • Inaugural Race: 2003
  • Distance: 1 & 1/8 miles (9 furlongs)
  • Track Type: Left-handed, Dirt
  • Age Qualifications: Three-year-olds
  • 2021 Purse: $700,000
  • 2021 Race Date: *Cancelled*

The Sunland Derby is Sunland Park’s most important Road to the Kentucky prep-race. Held each year in March, winners of the contest are awarded 50-20-10-5 points.

2021 Sunland Derby Race Results

2021 race cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Watch the 2019 Sunland Derby

History of the Sunland Derby

The Sunland Derby is held annually every March at Sunland Park Racetrack in Sunland Park, New Mexico. The Sunland Derby is contested by three-years-old willing to race at a distance of 1 1/8 miles (or 9 furlongs), and is run on a dirt surface, left-handed track. The maximum weight requirement for fillies is 117 pounds and 122 pounds for colts and geldings. It is listed as a Grade-III stakes race and offers an $700,000 purse.

The Sunland Derby began racing in 2003 and has been held every year except 2016. It was cancelled that year because of an Equine herpesvirus 1 outbreak. The American Graded Stakes Committee labeled it as a grade three status race in 2010. It features a purse of $800,000 and its main sponsor is WinStar Farm. From 2003-2008, the Sunland Derby was known as the WinStar Derby.

The Sunland Derby is a part of the Kentucky Derby prep race circuit and rewards the winner with 50 Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points. No horse has won both the Sunland Derby and the Kentucky Derby in the same year, but Mine That Bird did compete in the event and later go on to win the Kentucky Derby. He finished fourth in the 2009 Sunland Derby before wining the the Run for the Roses.

Inaugurated in 2003, the first race was won by Excessivepleasure who clocked a time of 1:42.84 over 8 ½ furlongs. The current speed record holder at 9 furlongs is Cutting Humor, who won the 2019 Sunland Derby with a time of 1:46.94.

Many Sunland winners have gone on to compete in the Kentucky Derby and various legs of the Triple Crown but none have placed as well as Firing Line, who placed 2nd in 2015 behind American Pharoah. Kelly Leak (2009), Tice The Appeal (2011), Daddy Nose Best (2012), Governor Charlie (2013), Chitu (2014) and Hence (2017) all won the Sunland Derby as three-year-old colts, but failed to impress at the American Classics. The best finish amongst them is 9th in the Preakness.

The only other notable winner of this race is Thor’s Echo, the 2005 Sunland Derby winner and 2006 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion.

Victor Espinoza and Martin Garcia are the winningest jockeys in Sunland Derby history, each scoring twice in back-to-back years. Espinoza won in 2006 and 2007, while Garcia was the winner in 2013 and 2014.

Bob Baffert owns three wins in the Sunland Derby, winning his most recent two with jockey Martin Garcia aboard Governor Charlie and Chitu.

Sunland Derby Past Winners

YearWinnerJockey / TrainerDistance / Time
2020Not run due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2019Cutting HumorJohn Velazquez / Todd A. Pletcher1 1⁄8 M / 1:46.94
2018Runaway GhostTracy J. Hebert / Todd W. Fincher1 1⁄8 M / 1:49.20
2017HenceAlfredo Juarez / Steve Asmussen1 1⁄8 M / 1:48.10
2016Not run due to an outbreak of Equine herpesvirus
2015Firing LineGary Stevens / Simon Callaghan1 1⁄8 M1:47.39
2014ChituMartin Garcia / Bob Baffert1 1⁄8 M / 1:47.88
2013Govenor CharlieMartin Garcia / Bob Baffert1 1⁄8 M / 1:47.54
2012Daddy Nose BestJulien Leparoux / Steve Asmussen1 1⁄8 M / 1:48.59
2011Twice the AppealChristian Santiago Reyes / Jeff Bonde1 1⁄8 M / 1:50.91
2010EndorsementRobby Albarado / Shannon Ritter1 1⁄8 M / 1:48.46
2009Kelly LeakMike E. Smith / Mike Machowsky1 1⁄8 M / 1:50.02
2008Liberty BullGerard Melancon / Tom Amoss1 1⁄8 M / 1:49.82
2007Song of NavaroneVictor Espinoza / Henry Dominguez1 1⁄8 M / 1:49.53
2006Wanna RunnerVictor Espinoza / Bob Baffert1 1⁄8 M / 1:48.88
2005Thor's EchoCorey Nakatani / Doug O'Neill1 1⁄8 M / 1:49.59
2004Hi Teck ManRicardo Jaime / Johnnie Nall1 1⁄8 M / 1:43.20
2003ExcessivepleasurePat Day / Doug O'Neill1 1⁄8 M / 1:42.84