Chitu came home a 2 1/2-length winner to give trainer Bob Baffert a record third victory in the $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) on Sunday at Sunland Park Racetrack.
Baffert won last year's Derby with Govenor Charlie and the 2006 edition with Wanna Runner.
Chitu, runner-up in the Robert B Lewis S. (G2) at Santa Anita, pressed the pace setter Garen early and comfortably held off stablemate Midnight Hawk to secure the victory. Chitu completed the nine furlongs in 1:47.88, just missing the track and stakes record held by Govenor Charlie of 1:47.54.
Chitu earned $400,000 from his third career win from four starts and picked up 50 qualifying points to the 2014 Kentucky Derby. He has now earned $501,800.
Assistant Trainer Jim Barnes said after the race, “From day one, everything went well. He shipped well. With two sprints and one route under his belt, this was the race he needed. He’s getting fitter and fitter.”
Winning owners Charles and Susan Chuy of the Tamma Corporation credited Baffert, jockey Martin Garcia and Barnes. The Chuys have been in the racing business for just two years and also own Baffert's 2013 Southwest S. (G3) winner Super Ninetynine. Mrs. Chuy said that Chitu’s name derives from one of the all-time greatest racehorses in China.
Though Midnight Hawk could not match strides with the winner, he was a clear 4-¾ lengths in front of third-place finisher Commissioner. Midnight Hawk placed in his third straight graded stakes race. He earned a $176,000 paycheck for owners Hill ‘n’ Dale Holdings, Inc. (J.G. Sikura), Kitchen, Pegram et al. Additionally, Midnight Hawk picked up 20 more qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby, pushing his total point tally to 52.
Awesome Baby give Baffert the Sunland Oak-Derby Double
Three races prior to the Sunland Derby, Awesome Baby cruised to an easy wire to wire win in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks by a widening 4 1/4-lengths under Mike Smith
Never seriously threatened at any point in the 1 1/16-mile contest, Awesome Baby was in control from the start and completed the course in 1:43.80. She continued Baffert's amazing streak in the race for 3-year-old fillies. Baffert has won the last four runnings and 6 times in the last 8 renewals.
Awesome Baby, winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez S. and Grade 3 Santa Ysabel S. at Santa Anita earlier this year, has now earned $354,250 for owner Kaleem Shah, Inc.