After stalking just behind wicked-fast fractions early, Texas-bred Wild On Ice produced a 35-1 upset in the $600,000 Sunland Park Derby (G3) when he surged to victory March 26 at the New Mexico oval.
Although highly regarded California shipper Fort Bragg scratched out of the race, the Bob Baffert-trained stakes winner Hard to Figure appeared poised to give Baffert his fourth Sunland Park Derby before suddenly shortening stride turning for home. The son of Hard Spun , most recently a gallant runner-up to Newgate in the Robert E. Lewis Stakes (G3), faltered after dueling with the speedy Henry Q through a blazing opening half-mile in :45.96 and three quarters in 1:10.64.
Sunland Park-based Wild On Ice, racing just off the pacesetters in the three-path under local riding legend Ken Tohill, cruised wide around the turn and bounded past a weary-legged Henry Q with a furlong to go. Wild On Ice continued to drive to the wire, repelling a rail challenge from Reddam Racing's Low Expectations.
Trained by Joel Marr, Wild On Ice hit the wire safe by 1 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:51.39 for the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track. He returned a whopping $72.80 at the windows for a $2 win bet.
Tohill, who has won over 4,000 races in his long career, earned his first graded stakes victory in the Sunland Park Derby.
Low Expectations and Henry Q rounded out the trifecta. Favored Hard to Figure finished last of six.
Wild On Ice, a homebred for owner Frank Sumpter, is not Triple Crown-nominated and therefore currently is not eligible for the 50 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby (G1) granted to the winner of the Sunland Park Derby.
Hailing from the final crop of the late Tapizar, Wild On Ice is the third winner produced by the Grand Slam mare Slamitagain.
Two races earlier on the card, Sunland Park locals took home the top prize again when Flying Connection rolled to a gate-to-wire tally in the $300,000 Sunland Park Oaks.
Entering off a resounding 9 1/4-length romp in Sunland's local prep, the Island Fashion Stakes, Flying Connection blasted from the gates and sailed up the fence to take command early from California invader Doinitthehardway. Paving the way through demanding splits of :22.89 and :46.09, Flying Connection shook off Doinitthehardway after three quarters in 1:11.14 and took off again down the lane, holding her rivals at bay by 2 1/4 lengths under the wire.
Guided by jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr., Flying Connection ($4.60) raced 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.90.
Longshots Love Tank and Don't Get Pickled, who closed from last, rounded out the top three.
Flying Connection, trained by Todd Fincher, picked up 50 points on Sunday on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks (G1), vaulting to the number six slot on the board.
Campaigned by Brad King, Randy Andrews, Chris Coleman, Jim Cone, Suzanne Kirby, and Lee Lewis, Flying Connection was a $250,000 purchase for her connections at the 2021 Keeneland September Sale. The 3-year-old daughter of Nyquist , bred in Kentucky by Liberty Road Stables, is out of the multiple stakes-winning Quiet American mare Free Flying Soul.