Jockey Mario Gutierrez onboard Slow Down Andy in the Winner’s Circle | Photo by Joe Rodriguez
El Paso, Texas- There was balance at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino on the biggest race day in the track’s annual racing schedule, Sunland Derby/Oaks day.
The Sunland Oaks provided the day’s and possibly the year’s biggest longshot upset in Cleopatras Charge, winning at 79-1.
While in the main event, the 17th running of the Sunland Derby, Slow Down Andy took the win going off as the post time favorite to capture the winner’s share of the $500,000 purse and more importantly the 50 points towards qualifying towards this year’s Kentucky Derby.
In the Oaks…
Two of the oldest sayings or cliches in horse racing came to fruition in this year’s edition of the Sunland Oaks. “Bombs went off” and a horse “…came out of the clouds to win”.
That is exactly what happened when Cleopatras Charge came to the front after trailing by over half a dozen lengths with a little more than furlong to go in the final stretch to get the win, paying $161.40 to win, $49.20 to place and $19.80 to show.
Astronomical figures for a horse who won its first race last November in Remington Park in Oklahoma.
The $1 Exacta paid $1604.40, while the $1 Trifecta paid $7,528.10, with the $1 superfecta paying over $12,000.
Winning jockey Jorge Carreno said, “With 1/16th of a mile to go I saw that the horse that was in the lead was holding up, that was the moment when I thought to myself, ‘I think I can catch her’”.
For a jockey who has competed in the Preakness Stakes and in ran second in the Sunland and Arkansas Derby previously Carreno called this the biggest victory of his career.
Despite the enormous win, winning trainer Gary Cross remained humble in his comments. When asked about the horse’s chances to participate in the Kentucky Oaks on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby, he said the logistics to get the horse to Kentucky is what needs to be figured out.
The 80-year old trainer said, “To ship (a horse) that far is hard. We have to take her in a van and that takes a lot out of a horse. I’m not a big shot so I can’t fly her out.”
Regardless if she makes the post at Churchill Downs or not, today’s performance was one to be proud of and one that will be long remembered…especially for those who bet a couple of bucks on a horse that went off at 79-1.
The 17th Running of the Sunland Derby
As the pros expected, this race was a race between two horses. Slow Down Andy and Straight Up G went to front as soon the they were let out of the gate and engaged in a speed duel that would last over three quarters of mile before Slow Down Andy would find two extra gears as he entered the final quarter of a mile to win the winner’s share of the half of million dollar purse.
This is the first time the connections of Paul Reddam (horse owner), Doug O’Neil (horse trainer) and Mario Gutierrez (jockey) won the Sunland derby. This trio has won the Kentucky Derby twice.
After the race winning Jockey Mario Gutierrez spoke exclusively for the El Paso Herald-Post, Gutierrez said “The race did not develop like I imagined, the eight (Straight Up G) decided to go with me, that was not part of the plan but I let my horse fight and the quality of my horse showed down the stretch.”
“We know we had our horse had fight, we’ve lost races with him before and he comes back strong. We never stopped believing in him, we know he is a fighter and he showed it today.” Gutierrez added.
For these connections, winning the most important thoroughbred race in the southwestern United States, Gutierrez acknowledged the owner Paul Reddam saying, “For me is a great motivation that Mr. Reddam has a lot of confidence in me, he has shown me that since we won our first Kentucky Derby and he has showed me nothing but loyalty and that makes me beyond happy.”
As for what the future holds for Slow Down Andy, Gutierrez said it is something that the connections will discuss. He concluded by saying, “Thank God this isn’t the first time we’re involved in those types of races (a Triple Crown race like the Kentucky Derby is), I don’t have the slightest doubt that we’ll return home sit down, talk and make the best decision for the horse as to how we approach the first Saturday in May (the day the Kentucky Derby is run annually).”
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.