By Dick Downey
Firing Line began the Sunland Derby dueling for the lead, but he was all alone at the finish.
After breaking from post 1, Firing Line and Gary Stevens fought through very fast initial fractions of :22.33 and :45.39 with Why Two and Malibu Mogul, a speedster with blinkers added. As the field advanced toward the far turn, Stevens asked Firing Line for a little more, and he scooted away from the field by 1 1/2 length with six furlongs run in 1:09.10.
From there, it was a cakewalk home for Firing Line as he went a mile in 1:34.70 and finished the 1 1/8-mile Sunland Derby in 1:47.39. He finished 14 1/4 lengths better than Where's the Moon, who was content to sit last of seven midway through the race, about four lengths off the pace.
Pain and Misery finished third, beaten 16 1/2 lengths, after running just in front of Where's the Moon in the early going. Tiznow R J, who loomed up in third at the 3/8 pole, was another half-length back in fourth. He was followed by Dirt Monster, Why Two and Malibu Mogul. Lord Nelson was scratched.
A new track record was set by Firing Line, eclipsing the 1:47.54 mark established by Govenor Charlie in the 2013 Sunland Derby.
Bet at 1-5 odds, Firing Line returned $2.40 to win, $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show.
Trained by Simon Callaghan, Firing Line is owned by Arnold Zetcher LLC. He was bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms. By Line of David, the bay colt is out Sister Girl Blues, by Hold for Gold.
The win adds 50 Kentucky Derby points to the eight Firing Line already held and puts him into the starting lineup on the first Saturday in May.
Where's the Moon wasn't early-nominated to the Triple Crown, but the 20 points he'll have if he is could put him in the starting gate. If nominated by the Monday night deadline, he'll be 12th on the leaderboard with several other Derby preps remaining.
Pain and Misery picked up 10 points, debuting him onto the Derby points list, and Tiznow R J now has seven with the five he earned today.
The Sunland Derby was the first start for Firing Line since he finished a closely-beaten second to Dortmund in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 7.