Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
by Eric Alwan
$100,000 Mine That Bird Derby anchors super Sunday card
Sunday’s racing program at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino is arguably the best so far this season powered by three major stakes races including the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby. The $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes and the $75,000 Curribot Handicap also help strengthen a stellar all-Thoroughbred 9-race card.
Kentucky Derby winning trainer Doug O’Neill ships in major threats for three stakes
Two-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Doug O’Neill is sending three talented runners for the triple header of stakes races with two-time Kentucky Derby winning rider Mario Gutierrez assigned to ride each one. Irap, a classy son of Tiznow is likely to attract plenty of attention in the Mine That Bird Derby at one and one-sixteenth miles. Although he is a maiden, Irap finished second in both the Grade 3 Robert B Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita and a second place finish in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity. Those races were won by Royal Mo and Masterly, respectively. Both are high profile Kentucky Derby prospects. Irap carries the highest Beyer Speed figures in the field.
Carded as the 9th race on Sunday, the Mine That Bird Derby is the chief local prep race for the $800,0000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) to be run on Sunday, March 26. O’Neill is a two-time winner of the Sunland Derby in 2003 with Excessivepleasure and 2005 with Thor’s Echo. This year’s winner of the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) earns 50 qualifying points for entry into the 2017 Kentucky Derby.
Conquest Mo Money holds down the home field advantage coming off a rousing 11-length romp in the $100,000 Riley Allison Derby held at Sunland Park on January 29. The Uncle Mo colt ran huge for owner Judge Lanier Racing and trainer Miguel Hernandez. He is unbeaten in two career starts at one mile distances. Jorge Carreno gets the return riding assignment on the winner of nearly $73,000.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen is sending Totality to run in the main event. The three-year-old Tapit colt finished off the board over a muddy track in the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds but was a fast closing 2nd in his prior start in the $300,000 Springboard Mile held at Remington Park last fall. He broke his maiden in his career debut at Churchill Downs last October.
The Mine That Bird Derby field also includes the stakes winner Underwood, Carlson, Conquest Crown Me, Oh So Regal, Wine N Devine and General Council.
$75,000 Island Fashion Stakes and $75,000 Curribot Handicap come up strong on Sunday
The 8th race on Sunday is the $75,000 Island Fashion stakes at one mile which serves as the prep for the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks on March 26. O’Neill has a heavy hitter in Mopotism who finished second to the highly regarded filly Unique Bella in the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 5. The Uncle Mo filly ran a creditable third in the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos last December. The battled tested three-year-old filly is owned by the highly successful Reddam Racing LLC who the 2012 Kentucky Derby with I’ll Have Another and the 2016 Kentucky Derby with Nyquist.
Unbeaten New Mexico-bred sensation Sippin casts a long shadow in the Island Fashion. Owned by R.D. Hubbard and trained by Todd Fincher, Sippin has rattled off 7 straight wins from as many starts. In the process, the talented filly has won the La Senora and Enchantress Stakes over the local oval this season. Sippin has handled a myriad of distances and earned over $319,000 in her perfect career. Leading rider Tracy Hebert gets the call on the local favorite.
Two-time Louisiana stakes winner Golden Mischief races for trainer Steve Asmussen. The daughter of Into Mischief carries the richest bankroll in the field of $166,730. El Paso Times Stakes winner Kell Paso competes for trainer Greg Green. 15-length maiden winner Mattie Ross looks intriguing for trainer Rodney Richards.
The $75,000 Curribot Handicap (7th race) offers a selection of the top handicap horses in the southwest including the prolific New Mexico-based star Forest Mouse. Still running in the peak form, the 9-year-old routing expert is coming off two rousing local scores including a win in the Winsham Lad Handicap. The former Sunland Park Handicap winner has 7 wins, 2 seconds and 2 thirds from 12 Sunland Park starts. Overall, the sturdy veteran has won 23 races from 55 starts with earnings of $856,000. Ry Eikleberry retrains the mount for trainer Henry Dominguez.
O’Neill ships in the well-traveled Semper Fortis for the Curribot. Semper Fortis was last seen chasing Arrogate in the world richest horse race – the $12 Pegasus Invitational World Cup at Gulfstream Park on January 28. Last fall, the Distorted Humor colt ran a close second to Pass the Buck in the $200,000 Zia Park Derby and was runner-up to Accelerate in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Derby. He will race on Sunday with blinkers on and gets jockey Mario Gutierrez in the saddle.
2016 Riley Allison Derby winner Concord Fast and 2016 Curribot Handicap winner Ol Winedrinker Who are also in the outstanding field.
Post Time on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday is 1:30 p.m.