Community Leader scores dramatic win in $250,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby; Honky Tonk Honey wins $250,000 NM Breeders’ Oaks

Apr 1, 2024

Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino

Friday, March 29, 2024


Community Leader scores dramatic victory in $250,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby

J. Kirk and Judy Robison’s Community Leader earned his ninth career victory on Friday, fending off a serious late bid from Marking Canyon to win Friday’s $250,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.

Trained by Todd Fincher and ridden to victory by Felipe Valdez, Community Leader was reserved off the early pace, set by Horns N Halos through an opening half mile timed in 48.12 seconds. As the field approached the far turn, Valdez guided Community Leader to the outside, quickly making up ground to assume the lead as the field hit the top of the stretch.

Marking Canyon, ridden by Jorge Carreno, rallied on the outside and pushed Community Leader all the way to the wire before settling for second, beaten just a neck.

Community Leader, a son of Diabolical, ran the 1 1/16 miles in a time of 1 minute, 46.2 seconds.

A six-time stakes winner and earner of more than $557,000, Community Leader remains unbeaten in three starts this year as well as perfect in three starts at Sunland Park. He was last seen winning the Red Hedeman Mile over this course on Feb. 18. He has only lost once in 10 career starts, finishing second in the New Mexico State Fair Futurity last October at Albuquerque Downs.

Sent off as an overwhelming favorite at odds of 1-to-9, Community Leader returned $2.20 to win. The $2 exacta with Marking Canyon paid back $5.20. Holy Bullet finished a well-beaten third under Alejandro Medellin with Sinai and jockey Miguel Fuentes rounding out the top four finishers.

Our Valentino was scratched from the New Mexico Breeders’ Derby earlier in the day.


Honky Tonk Honey earns mild upset win in $250,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks

Earlier in the day, Dilly Dilly Racing’s Honky Tonk Honey found an opening on the inside as field turned for home and had enough drive left in the tank to post a one-length victory in the $250,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks under jockey Irwin Rosendo.

Trained by Simon Buechler, Honky Tonk Honey raced midpack down the backstretch, chasing leader Scary Cherry and stalking Make Up A Story through an opening half mile in 49.76 seconds. As the field made its way through the far turn, Rosendo guided the daughter of Kentucky Wildcat closer to the leading pair while finding room to race down towards the rail.

Honky Tonk Honey grabbed the lead at the top of the stretch and held off the late rally of Make Up A Story and jockey Tracy Hebert in the final yards, racing 1 1/16 miles in a final time of 1 minute, 45.82 seconds.

Making just her fourth career start, Honky Tonk Honey was a well-beaten second in her most recent start on Feb. 18, when finishing eight lengths behind Payingoffmymarker in the $100,000 Enchantress Stakes here. Friday’s win in the Oaks is the second in her career, bringing her lifetime earnings to more than $197,000.

Sent off at odds of 5.70-to-1, Honky Tonk Honey returned $13.40 to her winning investors. The $2 exacta with Make Up A Story paid back $37. Scary Cherry held on for third with Run Away Bay rounding out the top four finishers.

Mark The Winner, the morning line favorite in the Oaks, as well as Amass Money, were both scratched earlier in the day, reducing the field to five runners.


Live racing resumes at Sunland Park on Saturday with a nine-race program which will get underway at 12:25 p.m. The $108,075 West Texas Maturity at 400 yards is the feature race on Sunday.