Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
by Eric Alwan
Sunland Park live racing begins Friday, Dec. 16
$800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) punctuates lucrative stakes schedule
Live racing at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino begins on Friday, Dec. 16, and the 72-day meet will be powered by 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 26, 2017. The 14th running of the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) at one and one-eighth miles will be the richest and most important race of the meet for three-year-old Thoroughbreds seeking a berth in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. The winner of the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) receives 50 critical qualifying points for entry into the Kentucky Derby. A record crowd of 19,081 fans came to witness the 2015 edition of the Sunland Derby (Gr. III).
2015 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winner Firing Line ran second to eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby. Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winners 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 La Coneja Stakes, $100,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks and $100,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby will help propel Sunland Park’s greatest day on March 26.
Thoroughbred stakes races are abundant on opening weekend. The $65,000 KLAQ Handicap for open Thoroughbreds racing 5 furlong is set for Saturday, Dec. 17. Elite New Mexico-breds compete in the $85,000 Johnie L. Jamison Handicap at six and one-half furlongs on Sunday, Dec. 18. New Mexico-bred fillies and mares also race on Dec. 18 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. 29 and the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby at one and one-sixteenth miles on Sunday, Feb. 26 serve as the chief local prep races for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III).
The $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes at one mile for three-year-old fillies on Sunday, Feb. 26 is the main lead in race for the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks at one and one-sixteenth miles.
Excellent open Thoroughbred stakes opportunities also exist in the $65,000 Bold Ego Handicap on Sunday, Jan. 1, the $65,000 Winsham Lad Handicap on Saturday, Jan. 21, the $65,000 El Paso Times Stakes on Sunday, Jan 29, the $75,000 Budweiser Handicap and $75,000 El Diario Handicap on Sunday, Feb. 12 and the $75,000 Curribot Handicap on Sunday, Feb. 26.
On Sunday, April 16, the $150,000 Sunland Park Handicap and the $110,000-added Copper Top Futurity get the limelight.
World class Quarter Horse racing will also be part of the Sunland product. The 16th running of the $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park (Gr. 1) and the $200,000 Sunland Park Juvenile Championship are set for Saturday, Dec. 31. The sensational older Quarter Horse star Zoomin Effortlessly won last year’s edition of the Championship at Sunland Park. The $150,000 est. West Texas Derby will be run on Saturday, April 1, 2017. The $200,000 est. West Texas Futurity finale is staged on Saturday, April 15.
Live racing at Sunland Park will take place on primarily a Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday basis through April 18, 2017. The only exceptions will be two Wednesday afternoon cards in December because of the Christmas holidays. Live racing will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 21 and Wednesday, Dec. 28. There will be no racing on Saturday, Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve) or Sunday, Dec. 25 (Christmas Day). Post time to start the meet will be 12:45 p.m. Nine races will be carded each day.