Championship at Sunland Park

Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino
Saturday, December 20, 2018
by Eric Alwan


Jessies First Down delivers in $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park (Gr. I)


Jessies First Down delivered with scintillating ease another impressive win in the 18th running of the $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park (Gr. 1) on Sunday.

Under regular pilot Rodrigo Vallejo, Jessies First Down made a strong argument for his third straight World Championship Quarter Horse title. Only Shue Fly and Go Man Go can make that claim. The 2-time World Champion produced a giant run in the Championship at Sunland Park and was completely unchallenged. The seven-year-old Fdd Dynasty gelding roared to a one length win and never took a deep breath. He sped through the 440 yards in 21.156 seconds, good for a 103 speed index.

In 2018, Jessies First Down won four Grade 1 stakes including the Leo Stakes, the Remington Park Invitational Handicap and the Downs at Albuquerque Fall Championship. The 1-2 favorite paid $3.00 to win. Jessie First Down completed a year of perfection winning 4 races from 4 starts. The proven champion has excelled under Trainer James Padgett. He earned $157,000 for owner Ted Abrams. Certainly one of the all-time great Quarter Horses, Jessies First Down has now earned well over $1.6 million from 19 wins in 38 career starts. He won the 2016 Championship at Sunland Park.

Jess Bein the Hero closed well to get second place but was no threat to the winner. The runner-up ridden by Manuel Gutierrez made a solid bid after breaking in seventh place. He earned $70,000 for owner Juan F. Martinez-Labastida. The 4-1 shot finished a neck in front of Major Bites.

The latter was in contention early trying to keep up with Jessies First Down. Ultimately, Major Bites ran out of steam and finished third. Apolltical Chad wound up a neck behind in fourth.


First N Forever wins $85,000 Lou Wooten – Sydney Valentini Handicap


First N Forever sped to a mild upset win in the $85,000 Lou Wooten – Sydney Valentini Handicap at 400 yards. The 5-1 shot broke on top and held off heavily favored Mamacita Cartel by a neck in the co-featured event for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares.

Felipe Garcia-Luna rode the winner for trainer Justin Joiner. First N Forever was a determined winner and paid $13.20 to win. The three-year-old filly by First Moonflash earned $51,000 for owners Robert Elliott and Billy Smith. First N Forever avenged a loss to Mamacita Cartel in the New Mexico Fillies and Mares Championship at Zia Park on Dec. 2.

Mamacita Cartel ended up in second place, a nose in front of Regard the Rose.


Live racing resumes on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m.


Photo Credit: Coady Photography