A front-running winner of the San Rafael S. (G3) and Southwest S. (G3), CONVEYANCE (Indian Charlie) will make his final Kentucky Derby (G1) prep against eight rivals in Sunday's $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3). The 1 1/8-mile event became more important when it was upgraded to Grade 3 status this year, but the New Mexico stakes race already holds a piece of Kentucky Derby lore, producing 2009 winner Mine That Bird (Birdstone), who finished fourth in the Sunland Derby prior to his 50-1 upset under the Twin Spires.
Three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert will send out the unbeaten Conveyance, who rattled off three consecutive wins over synthetic tracks before shipping to Oaklawn Park to win the Southwest last out. The gray colt will make his first start past a mile on Sunday and retain the services of Martin Garcia.
TEMPTED TO TAPIT (Tapit) registered a field-best 103 BRIS Speed rating when posting an 11 1/2-length victory over maiden special weight rivals at Aqueduct two starts back and exits a very encouraging runner-up finish in his stakes debut, the Risen Star S. (G2) at Fair Grounds. Conditioned by Steve Klesaris, the gray gelding will keep David Cohen in the saddle. NACHO FRIEND (Friends Lake), who returned from a lengthy layoff to post a respectable third in the Gotham S. (G3), merits respect in his second start of the season for trainer Kelly Breen. The chestnut colt shipped in early and breezed five furlongs last weekend at Sunland, and he'll have regular pilot Joe Bravo up.
Other invaders include San Vicente S. (G2) third-placer CLASSICAL SLEW (Bernstein); El Camino Real Derby (G3) fourth-placer FOG ALERT (Thunder Gulch); and ENDORSEMENT (Distorted Humor), who exits a good-looking maiden score at Oaklawn Park for Shannon Ritter. STORMING SAINT (Sweetsouthernasaint), who recorded his first career stakes victory via disqualification in the February 27 Borderland Derby, is the top local contender, and maiden winners GUILTBYASSOCIATION (Birdstone) and MCKENNA'S JUSTICE (Medaglia d'Oro) round out the field.
One race earlier on the program, six sophomore fillies will contest the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks over 1 1/16 miles. QUEEN GREELEY (Mr. Greeley), a convincing winner of the Island Fashion S. and El Paso Times S., will be looking for her third consecutive stakes victory at Sunland, and her top challengers include TORNADO BETTY (Comic Strip), who exits a four-length romp in the Arizona Oaks at Turf Paradise; and Grade 3-placed ELLAFITZ (Tiznow), who exits a recent allowance/optional claiming score at Santa Anita for Baffert.