Big Weekend at Sunland

Jess Tequila Talkin – Shue Fly Trials – Jan. 3, 2020

Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino
Tuesday, January 21, 2019
By Eric Alwan


Six stakes races headline big weekend at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino


More than $665,000 in purse monies will be on the line this weekend when Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino presents six stakes races over two days, highlighting some of the best talent in quarter horse and thoroughbred racing in the region.


57th renewal of the $100,000 Riley Allison Derby headline Sunday stakes tripleheader


Sunday’s thoroughbred stakes races will be highlighted by three-year-olds on the road to the Grade 3 Sunland Derby, as a field of seven line up for the 57th running of the $100,000 Riley Allison Derby.

Steve Asmussen-trained Rowdy Yates has been installed as the 9-to-5 morning line favorite for the Riley Allison Derby. An Oklahoma-bred son of Morning Line, he comes into the race with four wins from seven career starts, but was off the board in the $400,000 Springboard Mile last time out at Remington Park. Owned by L and N Racing, Rowdy Yates has amassed career earnings topping $210,000 and will break from post six under Luis Contreras.

Competitive Idea comes off a runaway victory against allowance foes last time out over the Sunland course and is the 3-to-1 second choice for owners J. Kirk and Judy Robison and trainer Todd Fincher. A Kentucky-bred son of Competitive Edge has won twice from three career starts and will be piloted by Ry Eikleberry from post four.

The Riley Allison is a stepping stone race for the Mine That Bird Derby next month, which then leads to the Grade 3, $700,000 Sunland Derby and a berth into the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

The Riley Allison will go as the ninth race on Sunday’s card and has a scheduled post time of 3:50 p.m.


44th running of $226,200 Shue Fly tops generous Saturday card


Saturday’s stakes triumvirate is highlighted by the 48th running of the Shue Fly Stakes, for some of the best quarter horses in the state of New Mexico and featuring a purse of more than $226,000. A field of 10 were entered for the rich dash, which will be run at a distance of 400 yards.

Jess Tequila Talkin, the fastest qualifier for the Shue Fly when trials were held here on January 3, has been installed as the 3-to-1 morning line favorite. The son of Jesse James Jr was a dazzling winner of his trial heat, drawing clear to a 2 3/4 length win in a final time of 19.55 seconds.

Tanner Thedford will be back aboard Jess Tequila Talkin for trainer Jackie Riddle and owner Gary Harstack. Jess Tequila Talkin has three wins from seven career starts and has earned nearly $59,000 in his career. They will break from post seven in the field.

Drawn right next door to the favorite is Donelli, who also scored in his trial heat and already has a stakes win under his belt. The Wes Giles-trained son of Big Daddy Cartel won the New Mexico State Fair Quarter Horse Futurity last September and has earned more than $214,000 while winning four times from six career starts.

The Shue Fly goes as the fourth race Saturday with a scheduled post time of 1:40 p.m.


Chief Cicatriz and Runaway Ghost collide in 16th running of the $75,000 Ft. Bliss Stakes


Two of the top stakes earners in the state of New Mexico will face off in Saturday’s $75,000 Ft. Bliss Stakes when Chief Cicatriz, winner of the KLAQ Handicap here on opening day meets defending champion and 2019 Sunland Handicap winner Runaway Ghost.

Trained by Shawn Davis for owner Roy Gene Evans, Chief Cicatriz is looking for his fourth straight win, which includes stakes victories at both Zia Park and Turf Paradise. The Kentucky-bred son of Munnings has topped $462,000 in lifetime earnings while winning 13 times in his 20-race career. Chief Cicatriz is the 8-to-5 morning line choice in the Ft. Bliss and will be piloted by Francisco Arrieta in the 6-furlong affair.

Chief Cicatriz – KLAQ Handicap - 2019Chief Cicatriz – KLAQ Handicap - 2019Runaway Ghost – Sunland Park Handicap - 2019Runaway Ghost – Sunland Derby - 2018

Runaway Ghost, making his return to Sunland Park after a long layoff, was last seen finishing eighth in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs last June. Prior to that, the Kentucky-bred son of Ghostzapper had won three times from four starts in 2019, including last year’s edition of the Ft. Bliss and the $150,000 Sunland Park Handicap for owner Joe Peacock and trainer Todd Fincher.

A true horse-for-course, Runaway Ghost also captured glory in the 2018 Sunland Derby (Gr. III), which accounts for a big chunk of his lifetime earnings of more than $750,000. He has achieved five of his seven lifetime wins at Sunland Park and has been installed as the 3-to-1 second choice in the Ft. Bliss under jockey Elvin Gonzalez.

The Ft. Bliss will be run as the 8th race on Saturday and has a scheduled post time of 3:24 p.m.


Other stakes highlighting the weekend include:


Older New Mexico-bred Quarter Horses will battle in Saturday’s 4th running of the $100,000 Dona Ana County Handicap. A field of 9, headlined by multiple stakes winner Ryansmanonthemoon, will race 440 yards in the Dona Ana, which will go as the third race on the card at approximately 1:15 p.m.

Poindexter Thoroughbreds LLC and Susan Montanye-owned Topless will be looking for her first career stakes triumph as the 3-to-1 morning line favorite in Sunday’s 23rd running of the Borderplex Stakes for 3-year-old thoroughbred fillies. A two-time winner from five starts, Topless, trained by Asmussen, is an Iowa-bred daughter of Successful Appeal and will be ridden by Luis Contreras when they face seven rivals in the 6 1/2 furlong affair.

The Borderplex will go as the seventh race on the Sunday card.

Ryansmanonthemoon – The Shue Fly - 2019Ryansmanonthemoon – NMHBA QH Stakes - 2019Blazing Navarone – Red Hedeman Mile - 2018Blazing Navarone – Flour Rivers / John Deere Stakes - 2017

New Mexico’s top older thoroughbreds will do battle in the 18th running of the Johnie L. Jamison Handicap, which will be run at 6 1/2 furlongs. Blazing Navarone, an 11-time winner and earner of more than $561,000, has been listed as the 9-to-5 morning line favorite in a field of eight with Eikleberry slated to ride for trainer Martin M. Valdez-Cabral, Jr.


First post time for both the Saturday and Sunday programs are listed at 12:25 p.m. Live racing resumes on Friday at 12:25 p.m.


Photo Credit: Coady Photography