Firing Line Trounces Field, Becomes Major Derby Contender

Firing Line went into Sunday’s $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) at Sunland Park with just eight Derby points and off back-to-back tough defeats, but came out of the race a major Kentucky Derby contender.

His price at Bovada dropped from 25-1 to 15-1, good for fourth choice among Kentucky Derby horses after his victory. The only horses at lower odds are American Pharoah (4-1), Dortmund (6-1) and Carpe Diem (10-1).

The Simon Callaghan trainee showed he could be a player on Kentucky Derby day when he took on the more highly regarded Dortmund in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) in his stakes debut. The colt battled throughout and was beaten by just a head.

He took on Dortmund again in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita and again dueled with that foe right to the wire, again coming up a head short. Dortmund went on to win the San Felipe (G2) in his next outing.

Callaghan decided to get his talented colt out of the shadow of Dortmund and settled on the Sunland Derby, where he caught a weak field.

Sent off as the heavy favorite, the colt trounced the field under Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens, drawing away to win by 14 ¼ lengths. The victory was worth 50 points and moved him up to sixth in the Road to the Kentucky Derby Points Standings.

While the Sunland Derby is not considered a major prep for the Kentucky Derby, do not forget Mine That Bird used the race as a prep for his upset victory in the 2009 Run for the Roses, and he then ran second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont Stakes.

Firing Line has a decent enough pedigree and looks capable of getting the 1 ¼ miles on the first Saturday of May.

His sire Line of David has two crops, with Firing Line the best runner to date. Line of David is by Lion Heart, who outran his pedigree to run second in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.

Firing Line’s mare is Sister Girl Blues, who ran second in the 2003 Vanity Handicap (G1), beaten just two lengths by the great Azeri.

The colt now has six weeks to prepare for the first Saturday of May while the three at shorter odds each have one more prep to run. While getting Firing Line at 25-1 last week looks like a bargain, the 15-1 current odds is still decent value on this talented colt.

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