SUNLAND PARK — The anticipated showdown between the undefeated Proceed and the highly regarded Rebranded in Saturday's Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino turned out to be a mismatch.
Proceed and Rebranded hooked up midway around the far turn, then briefly battled to midstretch before the New Mexico-bred son of Desert God remained undefeated, coming away with a 2-length victory in his last prep before next month's Sunland Derby.
Proceed, ridden to perfection by Alfredo Juarez, Jr., raced in between horses while moving up into a contending position down the backstretch. He got first run on Rebranded heading into the top of the lane and was never passed, gradually inching clear in deep stretch to post his third win from as many starts.
"(Juarez) moved him up into a good spot on the backstretch," said trainer Joel Marr after the race. "I was a little worried early because it looked like they'd slowed things down, but once he got into position, we had no excuses from there."
Proceed, who ran the 1 1/16 miles in one minute and 42.47 seconds, now owns two stakes wins in his career, picking up a win in the state-bred restricted Red Hedeman Mile over this course last December. The Mine That Bird Derby was Proceed's first attempt against open company.
"It's always tough when trying state-breds against open company," Marr said. "But we'd always hoped he'd turn into something nice."
This is the second consecutive win for Marr in this race. Formerly known as the Borderland Derby, the race was renamed last year for the 2009 winner of the Kentucky Derby who had raced in New Mexico prior to his stunning upset win at Churchill Downs.
Marr won this race last year with Dry Summer.
It is expected that Proceed will make his next start in the March 23 Sunland Derby. Worth a purse of $800,000, it's one of the richest prep races on the road to the Kentucky Derby and is expected to attract some big names from around the country.
With the win, Proceed has increased his lifetime earnings to more than $140,000 for owner Michael Stinson. Sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the 8-horse field, Proceed returned $4.60 to his backers.
Rebranded was clearly left with too much to do from his inside post. The Kentucky-bred son of Tiznow showed little early speed under Ry Eikleberry, then raced wide turning for home with a rallying move. He got within a half-length of the eventual winner at the top of the lane before tiring in deep stretch, forced to settle for a clear-cut second, far ahead of the rest of the field.
Rounding out the rest of the field were Ima Happy Strike, Alex In Motion, DE Lover, Alsono, Got Your Back and Postor. Lawly's Goal and Cloud Harbor were scratched from the Mine That Bird Derby earlier in the day.