Louisiana shipper Reride upstaged 2-5 local favorite Runaway Ghost in Sunday’s $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park. The top two utterly dominated this final prep for the March 25 Sunland Derby (G3), where they’re likely to run into Bob Baffert’s electric debut winner Justify on a quest for Kentucky Derby (G1) points.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen for Winchell Thoroughbreds, Reride was dispatched as the 3-1 second choice despite his three-for-four record. His lone loss was a sixth in last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), and the homebred son of Candy Ride had since come back to take the January 13 Big Drama at Delta Downs. The Fair Grounds-based colt also had a family angle for Sunland: his dam, multiple stakes victress Remit, is a full sister to Retap, who landed the 2008 Riley Allison Futurity here for the same connections. Remit’s more famous full sibling is multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Tapiture.
Runaway Ghost, a son of Ghostzapper and multiple New Mexico-bred stakes queen Rose’s Desert, was hammered down from his 3-1 morning line. Bettors were more impressed by his Riley Allison romp, in his first start since joining trainer Todd Fincher, than put off by his long-way last two back in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) for Mike Machowsky.
The rail-drawn Reride was nestled in a stalking third as Runaway Ghost vied with Trigger Warning through an opening quarter in :21.54. But the leaders were racing off the fence, and jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr. took advantage of the gap on the rail to move Reride up. They were virtually three abreast at the half in :47.88, until Trigger Warning cried enough on the far turn, and Reride grabbed the lead from Runaway Ghost passing the six-furlong mark in 1:12.31.
The market leaders turned it into a match race as they left the rest in another zip code. Runaway Ghost came again to regain a slim advantage in midstretch. Then Reride found more in return. The final sixteenth proved decisive, as Reride pulled 2 1/2 lengths clear from the weary Runaway Ghost. There was a 15 1/4-length chasm back to Trooper, who rallied from last to take third from Sphene. Trigger Warning wound up sixth in the nine-horse field.
Reride negotiated 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.06 to advance his resume to 5-4-0-0, $166,220. The Kentucky-bred bay debuted in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden June 8 at Churchill Downs, scampering to a 6 1/2-length victory as the even-money favorite. He wasn’t seen again until a second-level allowance at Keeneland October 25. Experimenting with turf and stretching out to two turns simultaneously, Reride handled both to go two-for-two. He was in contention early in the Kentucky Jockey Club but gave way late in sixth. An easier spot in the Big Drama helped him get back in business, albeit by a nose.
Also at Sunland on Sunday, 4-5 favorite Blamed advertised her credentials for the March 25 Sunland Oaks by hacking up in the $75,000 Island Fashion S., her two-turn debut. The Joel Marr pupil set fractions of :23.93, :47.77, and 1:12.50 while prompted by Kram, then drew right away from her. Under confident handling by Ken Tohill, Blamed galloped by 6 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:38.70 for the mile. Kram held second from Laudation.
Cleber J. Massey’s Blamed now sports a mark of 5-4-1-0, $117,260. Since her second to Kram in their September 11 unveiling at Zia Park, the daughter of Blame has won four straight, including the 6 1/2-furlong El Paso Times last out January 28. Kram had suffered her first loss that day in seventh, and Laudation was second, so Blamed confirmed that result convincingly here.
Bred by Sagamore Farm in Maryland, Blamed RNA’d for $77,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She is a half-sister to stakes-placed Chubby Star, and their dam, English stakes-placed Salsa Star, is herself a Giant’s Causeway half to multiple Grade 3 scorer Pacific Ocean.
Tohill scored a stakes double courtesy of Sky Defence in the $75,000 Curribot H. Making an early bid to shade 6-5 favorite Blue Azul and L. A. Tower entering the backstretch, the Susan Arnett charge opened up on them turning for home. Deputy’s Echo rallied to make it interesting, but Sky Defence had three-quarters of a length to spare at the wire. The 2-1 second choice covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.48, a couple of ticks slower than Reride’s time in the Mine That Bird Derby.
Blue Azul and L. A. Tower faded to fifth and sixth, respectively, of seven across the wire. Defending champion Forest Mouse was scratched.
Sky Defence, who earned his first stakes victory two back in the Winsham Lad, has bankrolled $201,276 from a 22-8-4-3 line for owner/breeder Richard Lueck. The Kentucky-bred five-year-old gelding is by First Defence and out of stakes-placed Skyladysky, a Sky Classic mare also responsible for stakes winner Clone.