Jesses Wish rallies to capture $100,000 Pepsi Cola Handicap

Feb 19, 2024

Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Jesses Wish rallies to capture $100,000 Pepsi Cola Handicap

Javier Chavez and Heysol Howlet’s Jesses Wish rallied under a furious ride from James Flores and rolled to a striking half-length victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Pepsi Cola Handicap (RG-II) at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.

Trained by Jose Ignacio DeHerrera, Jesses Wish broke clean from the gate but was outgunned to the lead in the 350-yard event from his inside by Flash Divine and jockey Manuel Gutierrez. Flores got busy as the field neared the wire, and Jesses Wish responded, tagging the leader in the shadow of the finish line to win by a neck, stopping the clock in a final time of 17.51 seconds while earning an Equibase Speed Index of 92.

Stakes-placed last time out, Jesses Wish was second in the $100,000 Red Or Green Stakes here on Jan. 14. The 4-year-old son of Jesse James Jr was also runnerup in last year’s New Mexico Breeders’ Stakes at SunRay Park and Casino last April. Saturday’s win marks the fourth career victory from 16 starts for Jesses Wish. The $60,000 lion’s share of the purse increases his career bankroll to nearly $280,000.

Sent off at odds of 7.90-to-1, Jesses Wish returned $17.80 to his winning backers. Flash Divine had enough left to hold onto the second spot by nearly a length. The $2 exacta with the top pair paid back $185.60. Pick Your Pour finished third under jockey Francisco Calderon, while White Lightenin, the even-money post time favorite with Noe Garcia, Jr, aboard, rounded out the top four finishers.

The $400,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) is the featured event of an extraordinary 10-race card on Sunday which begins at 12:25 p.m. A field of eight 3-year-olds, headlined by California invader Stronghold and Riley Allison Derby winner Lucky Jeremy will load into the starting gate for the 1 1-16 mile affair, which will go as the ninth race on the card. 

In addition to the Sunland Derby (Gr. III), there are five other stakes scheduled for the Sunday program, including the $250,000 Sunland Park Oaks, as well as the $100,000 Harry Henson Stakes, the $100,000 Red Hedeman Mile, the $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes as well as the $100,000 Enchantress Stakes.