Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino
Sunday, January 21, 2018
by Eric Alwan
Runaway Ghost dazzles in $106,600 Riley Allison Derby
Runaway Ghost served notice on Sunday with a dazzling 7 and 3/4 length win in the 55th running of the $106,600 Riley Allison Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack Casino and Hotel. His victory was so impressive he certainly can be considered a major threat for the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby on Feb. 25 and possibly the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) to be run on Sunday, March 25.
Expertly handled by jockey Tracy Hebert, Runaway Ghost relaxed kindly on the lead during the first half of the one mile feature. The Ghostzapper colt never panicked while headed twice during the race. Rounding the final turn, Todd Fincher’s talented runner shot into a another gear and moved smartly through an opening along the rail. By the upper stretch, there was no doubt about the winner’s prowess. He blasted away for a knockout win in the a time of 1:36.02. The 6-5 favorite paid $4.40.
Runaway Ghost is a home-bred owned by Joe Peacock out of the outstanding New Mexico-bred stakes winning mare Rose’s Desert. The nimble sophomore earned $63,960, pushing his lifetime bankroll past $144,000.
Fincher said, “He is what we hoped he would be. Tracy did a great job. We loved the way he finished the final furlong in under 12 seconds. We are going to the Mine That Bird Derby and hopefully the Sunland Derby. We shall see what happens.”
As a two-year-old, Runaway Ghost won the Golden Nugget Stakes at Golden Gate Fields last fall. He has faced the likes to major Kentucky Derby hopefuls as McKinzie, Solomini and Instilled Regard.
Beautiful Game finished a distant second with jockey Alfredo Juarez. The stretch runner edged out Fortified Effort by a neck. Both horses were no threat to the runaway winner.
Blamed sizzles to victory in $65,000 El Paso Times Handicap
Blamed sizzled to victory in the $65,000 El Paso Times Handicap going six and one-half furlongs. The daughter of Blame withstood heavy pace pressure early while leading down the back stretch. She set a torrid pace of 21.69 and 43.98 seconds for the first two calls and still had something left in the tank for the stretch run. Under Ken Tohill, the promising 3-time winner sprinted well clear in the final stages to win by over 4 lengths in a time of 1:15.42. She marched to win with speed to spare.
The impressive stakes winner is trained by the high powered Joel Marr and owned by Cleber Massey of Abilene, Texas. The victory was worth $39,000. Blamed put on a devastating show of speed and power and defeated a classy group of stakes winning three-year-old fillies. The 8-1 long shot paid $19.80 to win.
The $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes at one mile on Feb. 25 might be her next assignment. The El Paso Times is also a prep for the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks to be run on Sunday, March 25.
Laudation closed in the final strides to edge out Harking for second place. Steve Asmussen trains the runner-up.
Heavy favorite Kram could not keep up and failed to deliver a stretch bid. The 3-5 choice suffered her first career defeat and finished seventh.
Major Bites runs away in $85,000 Dona Ana County Handicap
Major Bites demolished his rivals in the $85,000 Dona Ana County Handicap going 440 yards. The horse for course won by over 2 and 1/4 lengths in a fast time of 21.11 seconds. The Jess Burner Memorial runner-up earned some revenge over Play Misty Forme who won the Jess Burner last December.
Jose Alvarez rode the high powered son of Jesse James Jr. Major Bites has 4 wins over Sunland Park soil. He earned $51,000 for owner Israel Bordier of El Paso, Texas. The proven stakes winner is closing in on $300,000 in career earnings. Red hot conditioner Jesus Carrete is the winning trainer.
Hot Authorization won a tight photo over Play Misty Foreme to gain second place. Lou Wooten/Sydney Valentini Handicap winner Princess Jesse tried hard but had to settle for fourth place.
Live racing resumes on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. There will be a mandatory payout on the $1 pick 6 wager. There is a carryover pool of $3,371.56.
Photo Credit: Coady Photography