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By Jack Shinar, Blood-Horse

Fast-developing Govenor Charlie became the latest colt to jump into the Triple Crown fray when the Bob Baffert trainee dominated eight 3-year-old opponents in winning the $800,000 Sunland Derby on March 24 at Sunland Park in New Mexico.

Govenor Charlie, winning by five lengths, set a track mark at Sunland, running 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.54.


Sunland Derby Image

Photo courtesy of Coady Photography

Though he was facing winners for the first time, the son of Midnight Lute  was no secret to the bettors, who made him the 13-10 favorite. Govenor Charlie earned 50 points toward a coveted start in this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) under the new Derby qualifying system.

Click here to the TV/Radio schedule for the key race on the Triple Crown trail

Martin Garcia delivered Govenor Charlie to the winner's circle for Baffert and owner/breeder Mike Pegram to cap a huge day for the longtime partners. A race earlier, Midnight Lucky secured the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks with Rafael Bejarano riding by eight lengths for Baffert and Pegram. Midnight Lucky, who like Govenor Charlie has little experience, earned her way into this year's Kentucky Oaks with the victory. 

The winner earned $400,000 for the Sunland Derby, his second victory in a row following a runner-up finish in his debut sprinting Jan. 19. In his prior race at one mile, Govenor Charlie graduated in a game effort in his first route try while earning a 100 Beyer figure.

Govenor Charlie is out of the unraced Storm Cat mare Silverbulletway, whose dam was Pegram's champion Silverbulletday.

This was the second win for Baffert in the Sunland Derby, New Mexico's richest race for Thoroughbreds. The Hall of Fame conditioner previously won the race in 2006 with Wanna Runner. Baffert was well covered in this year's renewal, sending out second choice Shakin It Up, winner of the San Vicente Stakes  at Santa Anita Park last time. Shakin It Up was not a factor, however, trailing for the opening half-mile and gaining mildly in the stretch for fourth.

Govenor Charlie was forwardly positioned in third on the outside early as Saint Prado, pushed along by Abraham, showed good early speed for a half-mile. Govenor Charlie continued to race with the leaders while three wide to the far turn and began to separate himself from the weakening pacesetters when asked for more by Garcia at the quarter pole.

The quarter mile fractions were quick (:22.74, :46.22, 1:09.96), but Govenor Charlie was not taxed, shaking clear in upper stretch with only the stalking Show Some Magic and Luis Contreras to beat in the drive. Govenor Charlie led by two at the furlong mark and continued to draw off under steady urging from Garcia.

Show Some Magic, sent off at 26-1, was well clear in second. He finished 3 1/4 lengths better than the Todd Pletcher-trained Abraham, ridden by John Velazquez, with Shakin It Up a length farther back in fourth. Then came Stormdriver, Mudflats, Saint Prado, Dry Summer, and Just Win Baby.

Under equal weights of 122 pounds, Govenor Charlie paid $4.60, $3.40, $2.80. Locally based Show Some Magic, from the barn of Henry Dominguez for owners Kirk and Judy Robison, returned $17.20 and $8.20. He completed a $65 exacta. Abraham, who like the winner was facing winners for the first time, paid $3.40 to show.

Midnight Lucky Mighty in Sunland Oaks

Baffert grabbed his fifth win in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks when short-price favorite Midnight Lucky left the field behind on the far turn en route to an eight-length win March 24 in New Mexico.

The final time, 1:41.06, was a track record for 1 1/16 miles at Sunland.

Midnight Lucky, a 3-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute   racing for Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, was ridden to victory by an icy Rafael Bejarano, who sat still as a statue as Midnight Lucky cruised through the homestretch.

Baffert has dominated the Sunland Park Oaks, winning the 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2012 renewals with Tough Tiz's Sis, Gabby's Golden Gal, Plum Pretty, and Princess Arabella, respectively. Plum Pretty went on to win the 2011 Kentucky Oaks, which will no doubt be Midnight Lucky's immediate goal.

The Sunland Park Oaks is worth 50 qualifying points for entry to the Kentucky Oaks should that May 3 race at Churchill Downs be oversubscribed.

For Equibase charts, click here.


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