May 27, 2024

Stronghold, Recharge ship in to win Sunland Park Derby, Oaks

Stronghold secured his first graded stakes win in the Sunland Park Derby (G3) at Sunland Park (Photo by Coady Photography)
Stronghold secured his first graded stakes win in the Sunland Park Derby (G3) at Sunland Park (Photo by Coady Photography)

The result of Sunday’s $400,000 Sunland Park Derby (G3) at Sunland Park was never really in doubt, as 6-5 favorite Stronghold looked like a winner throughout and delivered on expectations.

Previously held in March over a distance of 1 1/8 miles, the Sunland Park Derby shifted to February and shortened to 1 1/16 miles for its 2024 edition, which awarded Road to the Kentucky Derby qualification points to the top five finishers on a 20-10-6-4-2 basis.

The shorter distance and earlier date didn’t bother Stronghold in the slightest. Coming off a runner-up finish in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the son of Ghostzapper pressed fractions of :23.69 and :47.45 under jockey Antonio Fresu before taking over through six furlongs in 1:11.32.

The only drama came when Stronghold drifted out many paths at the top of the stretch, which briefly afforded pacesetting Lucky Jeremy a chance to battle back. But Stronghold soon straightened out and edged away to prevail by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:42.64.

Alotaluck closed late from third place to beat Lucky Jeremy by a head for runner-up honors. There was a gap of six lengths back to fourth-place finisher Curlin’s Kaos, while Informed Patriot, Da Ringo, No Trouble, and Surroundedbyangels completed the order of finish.

Bred and owned by Eric Waller and Sharon Waller, Stronghold is trained by Phil D’Amato. The bay colt has accumulated 25 Kentucky Derby (G1) qualification points, vaulting to fourth place on the current leaderboard.

Earlier in the afternoon, the undefeated Recharge brought her record to a perfect 3-for-3 with a hard-fought triumph in the $250,000 Sunland Park Oaks, a one-mile Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualifier that awarded 20-10-6-4-2 points to the five fillies who faced the starter.

Stepping up in class off maiden and allowance wins in Oklahoma and Texas proved to be no obstacle. When the gates opened, longshot Raspberry Wine broke on top but was soon outsprinted by Recharge, who aggressively pursued the lead under jockey Joel Rosario. The strategy proved successful, as the daughter of Gun Runner beat 9-10 favorite Simply Enchanting to the front through controlled splits of :24.09, :48.39, and 1:12.61.

Simply Enchanting advanced to challenge around the far turn, but Recharge was always moving stronger and turned back the favorite’s bid. Then came a wide rally from early trailer Candy Aisle, who reached even terms with Recharge in the homestretch. A prolonged battle ensured, with Recharge gradually gaining the upper hand to prevail by a neck in 1:37.27.

Simply Enchanting faded to finish third, followed by Methods and Raspberry Wine. Floating Beauty scratched.

Recharge is a Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, and the 20 points she secured in victory launched her into 10th place on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard.