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:
- Sunland Derby, $800,000
- Sunland Park Oaks, $200,000
- Harry W. Henson Handicap, $100,000
- Bill Thomas Memorial Handicap, $100,000
- New Mexico State University Stakes, $100,000
- New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks, $100,000
- New Mexico Breeders’ Derby, $100,000