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Recap: Local connections rule on Sunland Derby Day

David beat Goliath twice on Sunday at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino in the two biggest horse races that the track hosts every year the Sunland Oaks and the Sunland Derby. 


Flying Connection and Wild On Ice won the Oaks and the Derby respectively defeating the Goliaths of the thoroughbred racing world in the form of world class trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Flavien Prat who were favorites to come into the Borderland and sweep the win, the $900,000 combined purses, and the points to qualify for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. 


Flying Connection outdueled Doinitthehardway around the 1 and 1/16th mile course in a grueling pace to pull away in the final two furlongs to take the win and qualify for for the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on Cinco de Mayo. 


After the race trainer Todd Fincher said, “It’s the number two marquee race here, I’ve never won it before. They made my filly earn it today, she fought extremely hard for that win and I’m very proud of her.”


As for Flying Connection getting to the starting gate at Churchill for the Oaks, Fincher said, “That’s obvious what we want to do, but with horses it’s day to day. We’ll have a better idea in two or three days, we’ll take care of the horse first.”


Regarding how the race itself developed the winning horse trainer said, “I was really hoping Baffert (Bob Baffert, legendary horse trainer of Doinitthehardway) wouldn’t let his horse go to the front, just track around, but he took it to us and she took all the heat and still managed to win.”


Bob Baffert and Flavien Pratt would also be upset in the day’s main event, the 18th running of the Sunland Derby as Wild On Ice, with jockey Ken Tohill onboard, a 35 to 1 longshot won the 1 and ⅛ mile race to qualify for the world’s biggest horse race, the Kentucky Derby. 


Tohill placed Wild On Ice in the perfect stalking position as the two favorites Henry Q and Hard to Figure tired themselves out allow the Frank Sumpter owned and Joel Marr trained horse to get the win, the six-figure payday and the points to qualify for the First Saturday in May. 


It is the first time Marr and Tohill win the Sunland Derby. 

After the race Marr said, “I don’t know what we are going to do, we hadn’t really thought about it. Tomorrow is gonna tell a lot. How he pulls up and feels. If something is not right, he’ll tell us immediately, otherwise we’ll play it day by day and make a plan.”


As for the illusion of having a horse in “the greatest two minutes in sports”, Marr said, “That’s everybody’s dream. You want to be a reality and you want to think you have a shot if you’re gonna go. We’re not going if we think we can’t compete and just go to say we went.”    


Author: Joe Rodriguez  – El Paso Herald Post

Rodriguez is a life long El Pasoan. Joe has covered sports locally across the Borderland since 2007 for various media outlet both in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez as a personal passion as he is a professional in the world of healthcare (Physiatry). His favorite sports include soccer, auto racing, golf and horse racing.

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