Mucho Gusto Favored in Field of 10
By Dick Downey
Capping off the weekend of racing on Sunday, Robert B. Lewis Stakes hero Mucho Gusto will face off against the runaway winner of the El Camino Real Derby, Anothertwistafate, in the 1 1/8-mile Sunland Derby at Sunland Park in Hobbs, New Mexico.
Mucho Gusto, trained by Bob Baffert, faced four rivals and won the Lewis by 4 3/4 lengths in early February. The son of Mucho Macho Man has one loss in four starts, a runner-up finish behind Rebel Stakes runner-up Improbable in the Los Alamitos Futurity last December. Joe Talamo takes the return mount on Mucho Gusto.
In the eyes of most handicappers, the chief competitor to Mucho Gusto is Anothertwistafate, who will make only his second career start on dirt following easy wins on the synthetic surface at Golden Gate Fields.
Trained by Blaine Wright, the front-running Anothertwistafate's only try on dirt was his career debut at Santa Anita where he finished ninth in a maiden sprint. He has blossomed since stretching out to two turns and racing on the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate. Juan Hernandez makes the trip south to ride Anothertwistafate again.
Mucho Gusto drew the rail, and Anothertwistafate is next door in post 2.
Hustle Up and Wicked Indeed, the top two finishers in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland, return for the track's premiere event, and they'll be situated in posts 3 and 4, respectively.
If Anothertwistafate goes for the early lead on Sunday, he could be looking right at New Mexico-bred Hustle Up, who led the Mine That Bird Derby field at every call before holding off a late-running Wicked Indeed. The latter one broke slowly and had a wide trip before closing the gap on Hustle Up to one length at the finish line.
Shane Laviolette returns on Hustle Up for trainer Todd Fincher, and Luis Contreras is back on board Wicked Indeed, who's been training at Sam Houston Park for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Todd Pletcher gives Florida-based Cutting Humor another shot on the Derby Trail following a seventh-place finish under John Velazquez in the Southwest Stakes. Velazquez also takes the return mount, and his horse will break from post 5.
Posts 6-10 round out the field with a geographically diverse group: Walker Stalker (bred in New Mexico); Pasamonte Man (New York); Collusionist (Colorado); Diamond Blitz and Eye Cloud (both Kentucky).
Pasamonte Man finshed fourth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths, in the Mine That Bird Derby. Collusionist was sixth, another eight lengths back, followed a length back in seventh by Eye Cloud.
The Sunland Derby, which is carded as Race 11 on Sunland Park’s 12-race program, has a scheduled post time of 7:30 ET. The Top four finishers will get Kentucky Derby points on a 50-20-10-5 scale.
The field in post position order:
1 Mucho Gusto 8-5, Joe Talamo
2 Anothertwistafate 3-1, Juan Hernandez
3 Hustle Up 5-1, Shane Laviolette
4 Wicked Indeed 6-1, Luis Contreras
5 Cutting Humor 8-1, John Velazquez
6 Walker Stalker 15-1, Alejandro Medellin
7 Pasamonte Man 20-1, Ken Tohill
8 Collusionist 25-1, Alfredo Juarez Jr.
9 Diamond Blitz 25-1, Kent Desormeaux
10 Eye Cloud 30-1, Isaias Enriquez