Saturday’s Trio of Stakes Races

Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
by Eric Alwan


2018 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winner Runaway Ghost returns Saturday in $75,000 Ft. Bliss Stakes


2018 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winner Runaway Ghost makes his return to the races on a terrific Saturday program in the $75,000 Ft Bliss Stakes at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.

The four-year-old son of Ghostzapper makes his seasonal bow in the 5th race going 6 furlongs against older runners in the first leg of three outstanding stakes races on Saturday.

Joe Peacock’s star runner has been on the sidelines since winning the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) by nearly 3 lengths last March. The amazing colt won two stakes races last year including the $107,000 Riley Allison Derby and placed second in the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby. Trained by Todd Fincher, Runaway Ghost has been working forwardly for his 2019 return. He has worked 4 times this year including a splendid 6 furlong drill in 1:12.4 breezing. The $563,510 stakes champ loves the Sunland surface and will get the riding services on Santiago Gonzalez. Runaway Ghost is the 8-5 morning line favorite in the 7-horse field.

Trainer Henry Dominguez saddles the impressive 2018 Duke City Sprint Stakes winner Secular Nation in the Ft. Bliss Stakes. In only two career outings at Albuquerque last year, Secular Nation made his career debut a stakes winning one and finished a gallant second to Sphene In the Charles Taylor Derby going a route. The Distorted Humor colt is loaded with early speed and gets the hot riding Ry Eikleberry in the saddle. The 3-1 second favorite is also coming off a freshening and boasts bullet workouts in the morning.

Leading trainer Justin Evans counters with three dangerous runners. Black Ops just missed at Sunland Park on January 12 finishing second by a neck to stablemate Dubdubwatson. Wake Up in Malibu is a proven allowance winner at Aqueduct and Laurel Park on the East Coast. Coils Gold is a former Santa Anita Park and Del Mar runner.


Hustle Up is a major threat in $85,000 Red Hedeman Mile on Saturday


Champion New Mexico-bred Hustle Up will attract much betting support in the 17th running of the $85,000 Red Hedeman Mile (7th race) on Saturday. Todd Fincher’s powerful speed merchant is already a proven stakes winner going two turns having marched to a wire to wire win in the Steve Prather Stakes going one mile and 70 yards at Zia Park on Dec. 10. He was never threatened and won by 3 lengths. Last spring, Hustle Up was a definitive 7 and 1/2 length winner of the Copper Top Futurity at Sunland Park. He was the leading New Mexico-bred 2-year-old Thoroughbred with earnings of over $252,000. Leading jockey Luis Contreras gets the mount for the first time. Hustle Up is the 8-5 morning line favorite.

Rio Grande Futurity winner Sunscreen remains a hard charging closer for trainer Casey Lambert. Hesa Prospector and Bring All Offers are also getting sharp.


Saturday’s $85,000 Enchantress Stakes is part of a terrific triple header


The $85,000 Enchantress Stakes (6th race) is also part of the Saturday stakes triple header. Julie Who, Shesa Goldigger and Precious Looker have each hinted at considerable talent and are among the favorites in a wide open race going one mile.


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


Photo Credit: Coady Photography