Sunland Derby

Road to the Kentucky Derby > Sunland Derby

Sunland Derby Race Facts

  • Location: Sunland Park Racetrack – Sunland Park, NM
  • Inaugural Race: 2003
  • Distance: 1 & 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
  • Track Type: Left-handed, Dirt
  • Age Qualifications: Three-year-olds
  • 2024 Purse: $400,000
  • 2024 Race Date: Sunday, February 18th

As Sunland Park's most important Road to the Kentucky prep-race, winners of the contest are awarded 20-10-6-4-2 points.

2024 Sunland Derby Tipsheet

2024 Sunland Derby Results

Antonio Fresu / Philip D'Amato
$4.40 / $3.00 / $2.40
Oscar Ceballos / Ty J. Garrett
$9.40 / $4.40
Lucky Jeremy
Christian Ramos / William E. Morey
Curlin's Kaos
Diego A. Herrera / Antonio C. Garcia
Informed Patriot
Joel Rosario / Steven M. Asmussen
Da Ringo
Alfredo J. Juarez, Jr. / Jose R. Gonzalez, Jr.
No Trouble
Ken S. Tohill / Joel H. Marr
Alejandro Medellin / Bart G. Hone

Exotic Payoffs:

  • $1 Exacta (5-6) Paid: $22.40
  • $1 Trifecta (5-6-4) Paid: $66.90
  • $0.10 Superfecta (5-6-4-3) Paid: $21.82

Watch the 2024 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 race is contested by three-years-old willing to race at a distance of 1 1/16 miles (or 8.5 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 $400,000 purse.

The Sunland Derby began racing in 2003 and has been held every year except 2016, 2020 and 2021. It was cancelled in 2016 because of an Equine herpesvirus 1 outbreak and in 2020/2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Graded Stakes Committee labeled it as a grade three status race in 2010. From 2003-2008, the race was known as the WinStar Derby.

The race is a part of the Kentucky Derby prep race circuit and rewards the winner with 20 Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points. No horse has won both the the race 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 edition 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 race was held at that distance only once more before increasing to 9 furlongs in 2005. The speed record holder at 9 furlongs is Cutting Humor, who won the 2019 edition with a time of 1:46.94, while the speed record for 8 ½ furlongs was broken upon its return to that distance in 2024. Stronghold turned in a time of 1:42.64 to establish himself the fastest at 1 1/6 miles. 

Many Sunland Derby 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 winner and 2006 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion.

Victor Espinoza and Martin Garcia are the winningest jockeys in the race's 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 and Doug O'Neill both own a record three wins. Baffert won his most recent two with jockey Martin Garcia aboard Governor Charlie and Chitu, and O'Neill notched another win in 2022 when Slow Down Andy held off Bye Bye Bobby to capture victory.

Sunland Derby Past Winners

Jockey / Trainer
Distance / Time
Antonio Fresu / Philip D'Amato
1 1⁄16 M / 1:42.64
Wild On Ice
Ken S. Tohill / Joel H. Marr
1 1⁄8 M / 1:51.39
Slow Down Andy
Mario Gutierrez / Doug F. O'Neill
1 1⁄8 M / 1:50.16
Not run due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Not run due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Cutting Humor
John Velazquez / Todd A. Pletcher
1 1⁄8 M / 1:46.94
Runaway Ghost
Tracy J. Hebert / Todd W. Fincher
1 1⁄8 M / 1:49.20
Alfredo Juarez / Steve Asmussen
1 1⁄8 M / 1:48.10
Not run due to an outbreak of Equine herpesvirus
Firing Line
Gary Stevens / Simon Callaghan
1 1⁄8 M1:47.39