As Sunland Park prepares for this year’s “Run for the Roses,” the historic race happens to coincide with the last weekend of live racing for the season.
Officials say that local fans are expected to be on hand to wager on and cheer for Cutting Humor, the winner of the recent Sunland Derby on March 24.
The Kentucky Derby will be simulcast live this Saturday, May 4, throughout Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino.
“We encourage everyone to bring their families out to The Park this weekend for the end of live racing season here in Southern New Mexico and the El Paso area,” said Ethan Linder, director of marketing for Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino. He added, “horse racing fans will be able to enjoy live racing here in person, as well as have the chance to watch and wager on the big race up in Kentucky.”
The Park will also feature festivities such as a Kentucky Derby hat contest, sponsored by The City Magazine.
Participants in the hat contest will be able to win cash prizes for their best derby hats.
Live racing events include the Sunland Park Handicap with a $150,000 guaranteed purse, the Copper Top Futurity with a $149,353 purse, the New Mexican Spring Futurity with a $393,483 purse, and the West Texas Futurity with a $324,120 purse.
In this edition of Sunland Park This Week, Tom Dawson highlights the $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn which featured Sunland Park’s Harry Henson Handicap winner Escape Clause in a epic battle with Midnight Bisou.
Tom also updates us on Sunland Derby winner Cutting Humor and his preparations for the Kentucky Derby.
Sunland Park will also have live racing during Kentucky Derby day and the main feature will be the $150,000 Sunland Park Handicap which offers up an exciting rematch between Runaway Ghost and American Dubai.
With the 16th running of the Sunland Derby set for Sunday, March 24 at the Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino in Sunland Park, New Mexico, the excitement is growing for what many call the ‘Gateway to the Kentucky Derby.’
For Michael Peterson’s talented 3-year-old Mucho Gusto, a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby could be within his grasp if he runs to the billing as the morning line favorite in Sunday’s $800,000 Grade 3 Sunland Derby.
Horses in top finishing positions in the Sunland Derby will earn points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, with the winner earning 50 points, while second place is worth 20, third place receiving ten points, and fourth place finishers earning five.
A winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park last time out, the Kentucky-bred son of Mucho Macho Man, Mucho Gusto appears to be one of several top Kentucky Derby contenders in the barn of Bob Baffert.
Baffert has saddled five winners in the “Run for the Roses,” including the last two Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah in 2015 and last year with Justify.
Mucho Gusto will look to keep his 2019 record intact Sunday when he breaks from the inside post against nine rivals in the 1 1/8 mile test, set to go as the eleventh race of a massive card at the Sunland Park racetrack.
Derby day features seven stakes races worth $1.5 million in purse money, including the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks featuring Bellafina, the leading 3-year-old filly in America.
Mucho Gusto will be piloted by his regular rider Joe Talamo and has been installed as the 8-to-5 morning line favorite.
He won’t have to look hard to find what appears to be his main rival in the Sunland Derby. Anothertwistafate, installed as the 3-to-1 second choice, is drawn right next door in post position 2. The Scat Daddy colt is unbeaten in his last three starts, all on the tapeta synthetic dirt course at Golden Gate Fields in northern California.
Trained by Blaine Wright for Peter Redekop B.C. Ltd and slated to be ridden by Juan Hernandez, Anothertwistafate has only race on traditional dirt, resulting in a ninth-place finish in his career debut last November at Santa Anita. How he will handle the dirt this time will determine how much of a threat he will be in the Sunland Derby, which has a scheduled post time of 5:30 p.m. MTN.
Trainer Steve Asmussen, who has two Sunland Derby winners in his career resume, will saddle Wicked Indeed, who shipped in from New Orleans to finish a fast-closing second in the February 24 Mine That Bird Derby, the main tune-up for the Sunland Derby.
Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, LLC, Wicked Indeed has quite an impressive pedigree. The Kentucky-bred son of Tapit is a half-brother to Harlan’s Holiday, who won the 2002 Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes before finishing seventh as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby.
Though he owns only one win from four lifetime starts, he is the fourth choice in the morning line at odds of 6-to-1 with jockey Luis Contreras back aboard from post 4.
Trainer Todd Fincher, who won this race last year with Runaway Ghost, will look to be only the second trainer to win back-to-back runnings of the Sunland Derby. Fincher will saddle Hustle Up, third choice on the morning line at odds of 5-to-1.
Owned by Dale F. Taylor Racing LLC, Bobby J. McQueen, and Suzanne Kirby, the New Mexico-bred son of Abstraction was voted 2-year-old colt or gelding champion by the New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association after a campaign which included stakes victories at Sunland, Ruidoso Downs and Zia Park.
A perfect 2-for-2 this year, with back-to-back victories in the Red Hedeman Mile as well as the Mine That Bird Derby, in which he faced open company for the first time in his career, Hustle Up may well be the likely favorite among locals as he boasts an unblemished record from four starts over the course. He will break from post 3 with jockey Shane Laviolette aboard.
Starting gate post positions for the upcoming Sunland Derby will be drawn this weekend, Sunday, March 17 at noon, at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino.
“Around here we like to say that the road to Kentucky runs through Sunland Park,” said Dustin Dix, director of racing for Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino. He added, “and the placement of a horse at the gate is considered a significant advantage in a race as important as this one.”
The post position drawing will determine gate assignments for horses racing in the 16th running of the Sunland Derby on Sunday, March 24. The winner of the local derby receives 50 critical qualifying points for entry into the world-famous Kentucky Derby on May 4.
The annual racing event draws some of the top horses in the country to the area, including two of the top-ranked thoroughbreds currently in the nation. Last year’s Sunland Derby winner was New Mexico’s Runaway Ghost, considered a contender for the 2018 Kentucky Derby, until a subsequent injury caused him to miss that race.
Owners of horses competing in the Sunland Derby will be informed of starting positions during the event in the Turf Club at the racetrack near El Paso.
“Most jockeys favor the inside position on the track, since technically it is the shortest way around the oval when compared to the outside,” according to Dix. “It’s all about developing a strategy for race day after the positions are drawn.”
In addition to the points that will be awarded, the annual Sunland Derby also includes a purse worth $800,000. The 1 & 1/8-mile race is the richest and most important of the meet for 3-year-old thoroughbreds seeking a berth in the 2019 Kentucky Derby.
In all, over $1.5 million in purses will be offered during this year’s Sunland Derby Day, including: