Daddy Nose Best closed with a furious late charge to win the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) in front of a throng of 18,384 fans and stamped himself a ticket for this year’s Kentucky Derby.
The former $35,000 yearling purchase generated a career best performance under jockey Julien Leparoux to defeat a valiant Isn’t He Clever by three parts of a length in a thrilling 10th renewal of the Grade III Kentucky Derby prep race at one and one-eighth miles. The resurgent Scat Daddy colt found an opening with 3 furlongs to go in the feature while Isn’t He Clever raced 3 lengths clear heading into the stretch run. Leparoux roused his mount into 3-wide path and set sail after the leader.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Daddy Nose Best called upon his class and gradually wore down his energetic foe. In deep stretch, Daddy Nose Best swept on by the game Isn’t He Clever and raced to victory in a fast time of 1:48.59. He barely missed the track record of 1:48.20 held by Winsham Lad in 1962. More importantly, Daddy Nose Best clearly showed a love for the dirt surface coming off his nose victory in the El Camino Real Derby over the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields.
Leparoux said, “I got a fantastic effort from the horse. The past was set up perfect for him. He had plenty left at the end.”
After scoring his first Sunland Derby (Gr. III) win, a jubilant Asmussen said, “We have plenty of reasons for optimism. We feel good about him handling the 1 and 1/8 mile distance in a respectable time. This is everything we had hoped for. The spacing of his races was right. This race fit perfectly with his timing. He showed a great degree of maturity today and has improved a lot since his two year old season.”
Asmussen added that the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs would be his next assignment. Daddy Nose best flies to Kentucky on Tuesday.
The 2012 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) champion is owned by the popular Mary and Robert Zollars of Dallas, Texas. The pair has raced three horses in the Kentucky Derby. Daddy Nose Best should be the fourth. He earned $400,000 in graded monies and escalated his career bankroll to $633,623 from 4 career wins. The 7-2 shot paid a generous $9.40 to win.
Isn’t He Clever ran a tremendous race to finish second. The Henry Dominguez trainee was coming off stakes record wins in both the Borderland Derby and Riley Allison Futurity. With jockey Luis Contreras at the controls, the Smarty Jones gelding shot clear past the fading pace setters at the three-eighth pole and looked the part of a winner. The home course star continued to throttle up on the lead racing in upper stretch. He never lost momentum but was simply overhauled in the final stanza by a terrific horse. Isn’t He Clever finished over 7 lengths in front of the third place finisher, Stirred Up.
Locally owned by Judy and Kirk Robison, Isn’t He Clever picked up $176,000 in graded money and gained a great deal of prestige after Sunday’s feature. The bay gelding has earned nearly $410,000 in his young career. The Robisons won the Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes (Imco Spirit) and the Harry Henson Handicap (Twelve Twenty Two) on the undercard. The runner-up raced 3-1 second choice.
Stirred Up, one of two Bob Baffert trained runners, closed belatedly to gain third place with jockey Martin Garcia. The expensive Lemon Drop Kid colt earned a $96,000 payday for owner Robert LaPenta.
No Spin wound up in fourth place followed by Ender Knievel, Tequila Factor, Castaway and Justanoldsong.
8-5 favorite Castaway trained by Baffert and Ender Knievel from the Todd Pletcher barn promoted a hot pace of 22.48 and 46.24 seconds, respectively. The two runners paid the price and were out of gas 6 furlongs into the race. Castaway was coming off a Grade III win in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He was ridden by Rafael Bejarano. John Velazquez rode Ender Knievel.
Betting was very brisk on the 2012 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) program. An all-sources handle of $3,586,225 was wagered on the 13-race card. The tally was the largest handle ever recorded at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino and the largest handle in New Mexico racing history.