Twice The Appeal scored a big upset win in the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino on Sunday and stamped his ticket for this year’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Let go at over 25-1 odds, the Jeff Bonde trainee ran the race of his young career to earn his first stakes victory in a grade 3 event. Ridden by Christian Santiago Reyes, Twice The Appeal produced a 4-wide move around the far turn and engaged Astrology for the lead heading in the stretch run. The Kentucky-bred son of Successful Appeal found plenty of energy in the stretch drive and pulled clear with an impressive score. The big long shot won by 1 and 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:50.91 for the one and one-eighth mile Kentucky Derby prep race. Twice The Appeal returned a healthy $53.20 to win.
The rapidly improving three-year-old has found plenty of success since switching from synthetic surfaces to regular dirt. He began his turnaround at Santa Anita last year, breaking his maiden and then winning a starter allowance.
Bonde said in the post-race press conference, “He is a late May foal. He became more of a professional when we started to run him in route races. We saw the potential in him and that’s why we came here. My horse was in really great condition. He acted really sharp since shipping in last Thursday. He was one his toes. We felt he would get the trip. I wanted to make one big late run with him. Our intention is to go to the Kentucky Derby.”
Twice The Appeal beat a solid field at Sunland Park and earned $400,000 in graded earnings, sewing up a berth in the starting for the Kentucky Derby. The 3-time winner is owned in partnership by Edward “Rusty” Brown, Victor Flores and Henry Hernandez. Trainer Jeff Bonde put the partnership together and helped direct the purchase of Twice The Appeal for $35,000 out of last year’s Barrett’s two-year-olds in Training Sale.
Jockey Santiago Reyes earned the most lucrative victory of his young career.
Astrology, the 5-2 second favorite, ran a bold race in his three-year-old bow. The son of A.P. Indy was making his first start since last November for the Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton. The large colt raced eagerly for jockey Julien Leparoux passing the 3/8’s pole and loomed large. He led briefly in upper stretch but could not fend off the winner. The Steven Asmussen trained charge battled valiantly down the lane to save second place. The classy sort earned $176,000 in graded earnings and also moves in to Kentucky Derby Conversation. He won the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs last year.
Kelly Breen’s Ruler On Ice closed very fast in the final stages to earn an eye opening third. Jose Valdivia got plenty of late run out of the Roman Ruler Colt. Ruler On Ice earned $96,000 for owners George and Lori Hall who won yesterday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby with Pants On Fire.
It’s My Party, Beer Meister, Nacho Saint, Fusa Code, R Skydiver, Supreme Ruler, Behold de Buy and Sinai rounded out the order of Finish. Bob Baffert’s Sinai forced a wicked pace early and ran out of gas.
Total wagering on the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) day was a state and track record of $2,963,240. A record crowd of 18,571 fans came to watch and wager on the 13-race card.
On the undercard, Plum Pretty was a 25-length winner for Bob Baffert in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks. Martin Garcia was the winning pilot. Julien Leparoux guided Twelve Twenty Two to victory in the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap for trainer Henry Dominguez.
Live racing resumes on Tuesday at 12:45 p.m.