If you’re from Northern California, it’s rare that you get a bit of excitement for a local horse when it comes to a Kentucky Derby prep race.
It’s not often the region sends a horse to the Run for the Roses and it’s not often they factor in to prep races either.
For at least this weekend, that all changes with the running of the Sunland Derby on Sunday at Sunland Park.
Anothertwistafate out of the Blain Wright barn carries the hopes of Northern California into the race. With a win in the El Camino Real at Golden Gate Fields on February 16, the connections were guaranteed a spot in a Triple Crown race – the Preakness – as the El Camino was a “win-and-you’re-in” race for the Preakness.
But with the 10 points he got for winning the El Camino, a win in the Sunland Derby – worth 50 points – would lock the horse into the Kentucky Derby.
Another rooting interest is that Wright is taking jockey Juan Hernandez, who has been up for every start, along for the ride.
Can he win? Will a second-place finish and the 20 points that come with it be enough to get the horse to Kentucky?
Let’s look at the key horses in the race.
Mucho Gusto (8/5, Bob Baffert trainer, Joe Talamo jockey): The deserved favorite with three wins in four starts, including the Lewis at Santa Anita by over four lengths. His only loss was a second to highly regarded Improbable in the Los Alamitos Futurity.
Anothertwistafate (3/1, Wright, Hernandez): Three straight wins at Golden Gate Fields following an uninspired debut at Santa Anita in November. In the three wins, the horse has never trailed at any call in a race. In the El Camino he went out, set the pace and increased the lead effortlessly, winning by seven lengths.
Hustle Up (5/1, Todd Fincher, Shane Laviolette): He does have eight wins in 10 career starts, but all have come at smaller tracks such as Sunland. The last start was a one-length win in the Mind That Bird stakes at Sunland on February 24. This is a big step up, but he is 4-for-4 over the Sunland surface which makes him intriguing.
Wicked Indeed (6/1, Steve Asmussen, Luis Contreras): The second-place finisher in the Mine That Bird as the heavy favorite he makes his second start at the track. Two back he was fourth in the LeComte at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana.
Cutting Humor (8/1, Todd Pletcher, Johnny Velazquez): The connections will go from the Fair Grounds and the Louisiana Derby on Saturday to New Mexico and Sunland on Sunday. Just the fact it’s Pletcher gives the horse instant credibility, further enhanced Velazquez takes the mount. He was seventh in the Southwest at Oaklawn, so Pletcher opted to send the horse even further south.
By Dennis Miller