Unusual staying power may be the key ingredient for Hence

Using the tools available to him via the TRC Global Rankings algorithm, James Willoughby is assessing each of this year’s Kentucky Derby preps. Here he gives his view on the Sunland Derby.

Trial number: 19 of 27
TRC trial rank: #13
Trial name: Sunland Derby
Grade: 3
Our Grade: 2
Course: Sunland Park
Date: March 27, 2017
Distance: 9f
Going: Fast
Winner: Hence
Winner Expected RPR: 112.6
Winner Actual RPR: 114
Winning Trainer: Steve Asmussen (TRC Global Ranking: #31)
Winning Jockey: Alfredo Juarez Jr. (#75)
Winning Owner: Calumet Farm (#141)
Winning Sire: Street Boss (#65)


Hence looked a smart prospect here. He is out of a mare by A.P. Indy, and the influence of that great sire is clear in the stamina displayed by his strong-galloping son.

Watch for yourself above how the long, rhythmical stride of Hence devoured the ground leaving the back straight and continued to power him to an impressive win, as strong in substance as style as evinced by a Racing Post Rating of 114 – above the par of 112.6 we calculated, which itself suggests that the longitudinal strength of the Sunland Derby is not adequately described by its Grade 3 designation.

But, aside from the winner’s prospects, the interesting thing about this renewal of the Sunland Derby is the fractions: read them from the Equibase chart for yourself: 22.26 – 23.46 – 24.50 – 25.49 – 12.39 (24.78 pro-rated). This was a stern test of finishing strength after the cavalry charge early, and perhaps a platform to mimic what Hence will face at Churchill Downs.

As we have written before, pace analysis is a great tool right to the point it becomes a straitjacket. Here, the temptation is to go ‘fast pace + winner from behind = winner flattered’. But, this is a limited view of what happened because Sunland is a speed-favouring track, as was clear in last year’s race, when Firing Line went 22.33 – 23.06 – 23.73 – 25.58 – 12.69 (25.38 pro-rated) and made all the running. In a similar shape of race, Hence was 11 lengths back after a quarter, made up seven lengths quickly before the half, then continued his searing run right to the line.

In short, this may be a horse with unusual staying power. He couldn’t get into a classy renewal of the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn last time, but this doesn’t detract too greatly from his prospects because a mile and a sixteenth just isn’t his bag. The seasoning he picked up there helped and he is going the right way heading into the Derby.

Read James Willoughby’s previous Derby trial analyses

1. Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (Mastery)
2. Jerome (El Areeb)
3. Sham Stakes (Gormley)
4. Lecomte Stakes (Guest Suite)
5. Holy Bull (Irish War Cry)
6. Withers (El Areeb)
7. Robert B. Lewis (Royal Mo)
8. Swale Stakes (Favorable Outcome)
9. Sam F. Davis (McCraken)
10. San Vicente (Iliad)
11. Southwest Stakes (One Liner)
12. Risen Star (Girvin)
13. Gotham (J Boys Echo)
14. Fountain of Youth (Gunnevera)
15. San Felipe (Mastery)
16. Tampa Bay Derby (Tapwrit)
17. Rebel Stakes (Malagacy)
18. UAE Derby (Thunder Snow)

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