Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
by Eric Alwan
Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino presents the strongest thoroughbred card of the young meet on Sunday with the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby, the $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes and the $75,000 Curribot Handicap.
$100,000 Mine That Bird Derby – lead prep for $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III)
The dazzling stakes triple header is led by the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby (9th race) which is the lead prep race for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) to be run on Sunday, March 24. The one and one-sixteenth mile derby is named for the legendary 50-1 longshot who won the 2009 Kentucky Derby and placed in both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes for trainer Chip Woolley. Mine That Bird prepped for the Kentucky Derby at Sunland Park.
Wicked Indeed looks like the favorite for this year’s Mine That Bird Derby for 2-time winning Sunland Derby (Gr. III) trainer Steve Asmussen who won last month’s $106,000 Riley Allison Derby with Nitrous. Wicked Indeed is a good looking Tapit colt who ran a solid fourth to War of Will in the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 19. War of Will won last weekend’s Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds and is already considered a Kentucky Derby threat. Asmussen’s charge is owned by the Winchell Thoroughbreds, the same operation that won last year’s Mine The Bird Derby with Reride.
Asmussen has won the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) twice with Daddy Nose Best in 2012 and Hence in 2017.
The biggest local threat in the feature is Hustle Up, winner of the recent Red Hedeman Mile on Feb. 2. The fabulous New Mexico-bred has won 6 stakes races including the 2018 Copper Top Futurity at Sunland Park. Overall, he has won 7 of 9 races. Trained by last year’s winning trainer of the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) Todd Fincher, Hustle Up will try to carve out the early fractions and control the pace. He is a two-time stakes winner going two turns. The Abstraction gelding has won over $303,000 in his brilliant career. Fincher won the 2018 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) with Runaway Ghost. Shane Laviolette gets the riding call.
Mc Awesome, third place finisher in the Riley Allison Derby, is a legitimate threat for high percentage trainer Dick “Flaco” Cappellucci.
Multiple Kentucky Derby and Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winning trainer Doug O’Neill is shipping in One Flew South from Kentucky. Last time out, One Flew South won his career debut at Turfway Park by nearly 6 lengths. He is a son of Giant’s Causeway and should be dangerous. O’Neill won the Sunland Derby in 2003 and 2005 with Excessivepleasure and Thor’s Echo, respectively.
75,000 Island Fashion Stakes
Sunday’s 8th race is the $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes, the lead prep for the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks on March 24. The one mile co-feature for three-year-old fillies is led by the first three finishers from the $65,000 Borderplex Stakes in Parade of Roses, K P Slickem and Figure. Parade of Roses just held off K P Slickem by a neck going six and one-half furlongs.
Victim of Love, a near 12-length maiden winner here on Jan. 22, might be the most talented of the group. The Speightstown filly earned a 70 Beyer Speed Figure for trainer Henry Dominguez.
Steve Asmussen is sending two fillies for the race in Backflash and Blessings First. Both are coming from Sam Houston Race Park.
$75,000 Curribot Stakes
The $75,000 Curribot Handicap (7th race) could be the most compelling race of the day. The 1 and 1/16 mile stakes features the best handicap horses in the state including 2018 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winner Runway Ghost.
Todd Fincher’s star runner earned a big 95 Beyer Speed Figure from his comeback win on Feb. 2 in the $75,000 Ft. Bliss Stakes. He made a breathtaking stretch run to overhaul Secular Nation and win by 2 lengths in the 6 furlong feature. The race was his first in 10 months since winning the 2018 Sunland Derby (Gr. III). Runaway Ghost is 3 for 4 over Sunland Park soil. His only defeat locally came in the 2018 Mine That Bird Derby when he finished second to Reride. The 4-year-old Ghostzapper colt has been working tremendously and is thriving under the masterful direction of Todd Fincher. Santiago Gonzalez returns to ride the probable favorite and winner of over $608,000.
Trainer Justin Evans counters with three menacing threats. His Raagheb is fresh off a daylight win in the Winsham Lad Handicap on Jan. 13 where he defeated Deputy’s Echo by 2 lengths. The 7-year-old son of Street Cry is very sharp and loves Sunland Park.
Pendleton rates a major contender for Evans as well having won a mile race on Jan. 13 by over 5 lengths in a time of 1:35.1. The victory earned an 86 Beyer Speed Figure. The son of Giant’s Causeway is lethal on the lead and relishes the distance. He holds the one mile track record at Zia Park.
Hereditary is the third Evans horse in the Curribot coming off a recent win. Evans won his 2,000th career Thoroughbred race at Sunland Park last Tuesday afternoon.
2017 Sunland Park Handicap winner American Dubai gives the co-feature even more depth.
Post time on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday is 12:50 p.m.
Photo Credit: Coady Photography