Runaway Ghost Runs Away with Sunland Derby
All Alone at the Finish
By Dick Downey
Runaway Ghost, the only local horse entered in the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park, came from off the pace to win big.
All Out Blitz led the field through the first turn and up the backstretch in quick opening fracions of 45.80 and 1:10.27, with New York Central, Shane Zain and Fortified Effort in closest pursuit among the field of 12.
After breaking from post 11 under Tracy Hebert, Runaway Ghost, was sixth, but only 2 1/2 lengths off the pace after the first half-mile. Going into the far turn, he began circling the leaders four wide and started distancing himself from the others in upper stretch. At the furlong marker, he led by four lengths. He won the 1 1/8-mile race with the greatest of ease in a geared-down 1:49.20 with a 2 3/4 length advantage over the late-running second finisher Dream Baby Dream.
Joe Peacock's Kentucky homebred, a son of Ghostzapper out of Rose's Desert, by Desert Gold, was late-nominated to the Triple Crown and earned 50 Derby points, which should be sufficient to make the Derby field. Dream Baby Dream got 20 points. Peace, third by 8 3/4 lengths, picked up 10 points to make his total 15, and Seven Trumpets got five and now has nine in all.
The rest of the field was very far back. Fifth finisher Dark Vader was 10 lengths behind the winner and was followed by Choo Choo, Shane Zain, All Out Blitz, Prince Lucky, New York Central, Hollywood Star and Fortified Effort.
Runaway Ghost was the only horse in the field with experience racing at the New Mexico track. Most recently, he finished second to Reride in the Mine That Bird Derby, and he won the Riley Allison Futurity by 7 1/4 lengths. Before those races he finished fifth, beaten 36 lengths, in the CashCall Futurity at Los Alamitos in early December.
Trainer Todd Fincher said after the race he wasn't very concerned about drawing so far outside because Runaway Ghost had been training well, but that he was farther back in the early going than Fincher had anticipated.
Sent off by bettors at 7-2 favoritism, Runaway Ghost returned backers holding $2 tickets $9.80 to win, $6.00 to place and $4.00 to show. The $800,000 race yielded $400,000 to Peacock, who said Runaway Ghost was the best horse he's ever had.