Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
by Eric Alwan
Sunland Park live racing returns on Friday, Dec. 15
$800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) highlights lucrative stakes schedule
Live racing at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino returns on Friday, Dec. 15, and the 72-day meet will be energized by the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) and a highly lucrative stakes schedule worth over $5 million.
Over $1.5 million in purses will be offered on Sunland Derby (Gr. III) day – Sunday, March 25, 2018. The 15th running of the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) at one and one-eighth miles is the richest and most impactful race of the meet for three-year-old Thoroughbreds seeking a berth in the 2018 Kentucky Derby. The winner of the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) receives 50 critical qualifying points for entry into the Kentucky Derby. 2017 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winner Hence went on to win the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows. Irap, fourth place finisher in last year’s Sunland Derby (Gr. III), raced on to win the Blue Grass Stakes (Gr. II), the Ohio Derby (Gr. III) and the Indiana Derby (Gr. III) and was third in the Grade I Travers Stakes.
A record crowd of 19,081 fans came to witness the 2015 edition of the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) won by Firing Lane. He would run second to eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby. Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winners Hence (2017), Chitu (2014), Govenor Charlie (2013), Daddy Nose Best (2012) and Twice the Appeal (2011) all ran in the Kentucky Derby. In 2009, Mine That Bird parlayed a fourth place finish in the Sunland Derby to a victory in the Kentucky Derby at 50-1 odds.
In addition to the Sunland Derby (Gr. III), the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, $100,000 Harry W. Henson Handicap, $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Handicap, $100,000 New Mexico State University Stakes, $100,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks and $100,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby will help propel Sunland Park’s greatest day on March 25.
Thoroughbred stakes races are abundant on opening weekend. The $65,000 KLAQ Handicap for open Thoroughbreds racing 5 furlong is set for Saturday, Dec. 16. Elite New Mexico-breds compete in the $85,000 Johnie L. Jamison Handicap at six and one-half furlongs on Sunday, Dec. 17. New Mexico-bred fillies and mares also race on Dec. 17 going 6 furlongs in the $85,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap.
The $100,000 Riley Allison Derby at one mile on Sunday, Jan. 28 and the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby at one and one-sixteenth miles on Sunday, Feb. 25 serve as the chief local prep races for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III). Conquest Mo Money swept to victories in both the Riley Allison and Mine That Bird Derbies. He would subsequently finish second in the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) and the Arkansas Derby (Gr. I) at Oaklawn Park.
The $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes at one mile for three-year-old fillies on Sunday, Feb. 25 is the main lead in race for the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks at one and one-sixteenth miles.
Excellent open Thoroughbred stakes opportunities are available in the $65,000 Bold Ego Handicap on Sunday, Dec. 31, the $65,000 Winsham Lad Handicap on Sunday, Jan. 14, the $65,000 El Paso Times Stakes on Sunday, Jan 28, the $75,000 Budweiser Handicap and $75,000 El Diario Handicap on Sunday, Feb. 10 and the $75,000 Curribot Handicap on Sunday, Feb. 25.
On Sunday, April 15, the $150,000 Sunland Park Handicap and the $110,000-added Copper Top Futurity get the limelight. American Dubai romped to an impressive victory in last season’s Sunland Park Handicap.
World class Quarter Horse racing will also be part of the Sunland product. The 17th running of the $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park (Gr. 1) and the $200,000 Sunland Park Juvenile Championship are set for Sunday, Dec. 31. The $150,000 est. West Texas Derby will be run on Saturday, March 31. The $200,000 est. West Texas Futurity finale is staged on Saturday, April 14.
Live racing at Sunland Park will take place completely on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday basis through Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Post time for the season is 12:30 p.m. Nine races will be carded each day except on weekend days presenting Quarter Horse stakes where there could be 10 to 11 races.