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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

The Commish: Chitu, Commissioner Choices in Sunland Derby


By Greg “The Commish” Johnson
The Downey Profile

The serious talk starts with Dick and me at the beginning of the year, as we exchange thoughts on all things Derby, and our preliminary listing of contenders. Two of those early hopefuls, Chitu and Commissioner, have found a road through New Mexico, and the clock is ticking.

So how does a guy like me not jump all over Commissioner? His name means more than just an extension of my handle, but I note that the reference to this runner while updating my bio was handed into TDP prior to that impressive Jan. 3 win over Top Billing.

He is an obvious fit if we’re going to draw a line through that Fountain of Youth effort that found him empty throughout. Maybe he just wasn’t comfortable with that ridiculously-paved, speed-favoring track that caters to front runners and fast times. He looms the one to fear most if the speed breaks down and if he runs like the undefeated runner at this distance that he is.

Chitu was taken in our Triple Crown Fantasy League on the pick right before mine. I again gasped that he's not in our stable after his last race, a close second against Candy Boy in the Robert B. Lewis. Folks, you can’t get much better than that effort on your first two-turn attempt.

A solid pattern of workouts since then topped off with a sizzling 1:24 and change seven furlong gate work last Monday, and here we are. Bob Baffert has been upfront about this pony wanting to run, and run fast early. He looks to sit right off the front runners, make his move on the far turn, and a repeat or improvement off that last clearly says look out.

Garen is a lightly-raced son of Street Cry that has fancied the front end in his last two with some success. He comes into this fray after breaking his maiden in his third attempt, and he has yet to really pass a horse, so it looks like the green light is on right from the get go. He’s in much tougher waters today, and with a few more experienced and classy rivals breathing down his neck on that far turn, he’s really going to need a monster improvement to keep going with these.

Tanzanite Cat adds to the speed brigade, which was a successful game plan when he took the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on the front end. He threw down a best-of-74 four furlong workout before heading to New Mexico, indicating his readiness. He is another who didn’t show up in his attempt to climb the class ladder, fading badly in the mile and a sixteenth Southwest Stakes. Connections earlier had questioned his capabilities to go longer, as do I, and he may be a pace casualty at this longer distance when all is said and done.

Global Strike is the other part of the Todd Pletcher-trained entry, and he retains the services of his regular rider, Javier Castellano for this big money event. He joins this fray fresh off of back-to-back 1 1/8 mile races, with the last finding the winner’s circle. He is yet another who was taken straight to the lead and never looked backed. We shall find out if he belongs soon enough, but those times and speed figures are not really adding up with some of these. Still, somehow I don’t think the connections are here just for the fabulous green chile stew, nor do I think Pletcher would bring him here if he couldn’t run with his stablemate. Hmm.

Midnight Hawk, a heavy horse, is back in action after a short two weeks off. He is consistent as they come on the Derby trail this year and has knocked heads against the best in the west. A third-place finish may just earn this charge enough extra points to land himself a sure-thing starting spot that first Saturday in May. He may again find himself in the cat-bird seat at the top of the stretch, but his inability to finish the job. and now the extra real estate, makes him an iffy proposition at the “win"dows.

Bourbonize started his career with two consecutive wins from off the pace. His mile win in allowance company in the slop could not have been slower. He then he found some traffic to his disliking in the Southwest. Connections have had high hopes for the touted son of Tiz Wonderful right from the beginning. This guy joins a list of those that, if one draws a line through the last race, could produce a move forward. For Bourbonize, that possibility appears stronger considering the trouble line in his last.

Lawly’s Gold and Rebranded round out the field. They have experience racing on this circuit and at this track. Historically, these types rarely make a dent when the big guns come into town.


Good luck with all your selections, and I’m guessing you have quite a few picks if you’re counting those brackets???

Sunday, R11
Grade III Sunland Derby
Sunland Park
1 1/8 Mile
Post Time: 7:40

Post   Horse  ML  Jockey Sx  Wt Trainer
1 Bourbonize (KY) 6-1 R. Vazquez G 122 K.Gorder
2 Garen (KY) 10-1 V. Espinoza C 122 P. Miller
3 Commissioner (KY) 7-2 J. Velazquez C 122 T. Pletcher
4 Global Strike (KY) 8=1 J. Castellano C 122 T. Pletcher
5 Tanzanite Cat (FL) 6-1 N. Arroyo Jr. C 122 C. Autrey
6 Lawly's Goal (AZ) 20-1 I. Rosendo C 122 K. Eikleberry
7 Midnight Hawk (KY) 5-2 M. Smith C 122 B. Baffert
8 Rebranded (KY) 12-1 R. Eikleberry C 122 J. Evans
9 Chitu (KY) 4-1 M. Garcia C 122 B. Baffert

All will run with Lasix

Equipment Changes: 3 - Commissioner - Blinkers On; 8 - Rebranded - Blinkers On

Owners: 1 - Bourbon Lane Stable ; 2 - Rockingham Ranch ; 3 - WinStar Farm LLC ; 4 - Stonestreet Stables LLC ; 5 - Driver, James L. and Ywachetta H. ; 6 - Mark D Breen ; 7 - Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings, Inc. (J. G. Sikura), Kitchen, Pegram, et al ; 8 - Tony A. Pennington ; 9 - Tanma Corporation

Breeders: 1 - Troy Rankin & Joe Davis; 2 - Alessandro Miserocchi; 3 - WinStar Farm, LLC; 4 - Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC; 5 - Charles H. Deters & Dr. John Peterson; 6 - Fleming Thoroughbred Farm, LLC &Dr. Dorothee Kieckhefer; 7 - Michael E. Pegram; 8 - Mount Brilliant Farm & Ranch, LLC; 9 - Tom Evans, Macon Wilmil Equines &Marjac Farms


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