Wild On Ice shocks them all in $600,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III)
Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino
Sunday, March 26, 2023
35-1 Wild On Ice shocks them all in $600,000 Grade III Sunland Derby
Flying Connection dominates in $300,000 Sunland Park Oaks
Cityonthenile scores upset victory in $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap
Dean’s List up in nick of time to score victory in $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial
Valentino Who posts massive upset in $250,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby
I Think I’m Here posts minor upset in $120,000 New Mexico State University Stakes
Crafty Money draws clear late to win $250,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks
Trainer Joel Marr and jockey Ken Tohill scored an improbable win aboard 35-1 Wild On Ice, who posted a shocking upset in the 18th running of the $600,000 Grade III Sunland Derby on Sunday afternoon at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.
Wild On Ice, a well-beaten third in the Mine That Bird Derby in his most recent start, sat behind a grueling pace duel set by Henry Q and Hard To Figure. Those two battled through an opening six furlongs in 1 minute, 10.64 seconds. Finding room along the rail turning for home, Tohill guided the Texas-bred son of Tapizar to the lead, holding off a belated rally from Low Expectations and jockey Mario Gutierrez to earn the 1 1/4 length victory, and perhaps a start in the May 6 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Wild On Ice ran the 1 1/8 miles in a final time of 1:51.39.
Wild On Ice was a non-factor in his most recent pair of starts, finishing ninth earlier this season in the Riley Allison Derby. Prior to that, Wild On Ice won each of his first two starts as a 2-year-old at Zia Park. The win in the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) pads his career bankroll to more than $405,000.
The winner of the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) earns 50 qualifying points on the road to the Kentucky Derby. The win will likely make Wild On Ice eligible for a start in the Run for the Roses. Wild On Ice, owned by Frank Sumpter, Sr., is not currently nominated for the Triple Crown series, though Marr indicated those plans may change.
“We weren’t really thinking about that coming in here, but we’ll see what happens,” Marr said.
For both Marr and Tohill, the win with Wild On Ice is their first winner in the history of the Sunland Derby (Gr. III). Tohill is the all-time leading jockey at Sunland Park and a winner of nearly 4,100 races with purses topping $70 million in his 40-plus year career.
Marr, a winner of nearly 1,400 career races and nearly $30 million in purses, is perhaps best known for his work with the unbeaten New Mexico-bred racemare Peppers Pride, a winner in all 19 of her career starts from 2005 through 2008.
Sent off as the longest shot in the field at odds of 35.40-to-1, Wild On Ice paid $72.80. The $2 exacta with Low Expectations came back with a $1,096 return on investment.
Henry Q, a romping winner last time out in the Mine That Bird Derby, was a well-beaten third under Edwin Maldonado, with How Did He Do That rounding out the top four finishers.
Post time favorite Hard To Figure, sent off at odds of 1-to-2 and coming off a second place finish in the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park, faded at the top of the lane under jockey Flavien Prat and finished last in the six-horse field.
Fort Bragg was scratched earlier in the day, reducing the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) field to six runners.
Sunland Park’s leading trainer Todd Fincher and Flying Connection scored a resounding win in the 20th running of the $300,000 Sunland Park Oaks.
Ridden to victory by Alfredo Juarez, Jr. Flying Connection raced gate-to-wire in the Sunland Park Oaks, drawing clear entering the lane before being geared down to a 2 1/4 length win, racing 1 1/16 miles in a final time of 1 minute, 43.90 seconds.
Flying Connection raced on a short lead down the backstretch, hounded by post time favorite Doinitthehardway through an opening half-mile in 46.09 seconds. Flying Connection began to shake loose of that one midway around the far turn before cruising to an insurmountable lead passing the furlong pole.
“That other filly really pushed her today,” Fincher said. “She showed a lot being able to put her away like she did. She’s a real tough-minded filly.”
Flying Connection gives Fincher his first win in the Sunland Park Oaks. Currently the leading thoroughbred trainer at the meet, Fincher has saddled 32 winners this season with purses topping $1.5 million.
Owned by Brad King, G. Randy Andrews, G. Chris Coleman and Jim Cone, Flying Connection earned her third stakes win. The daughter of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist was coming off an equally impressive performance last month in the Island Fashion Stakes. She also scored a win last November at Zia Park in the Zia Princess Stakes. Sunday’s win gives her four trips to the winners circle from seven career starts and pads her career bankroll to more than $294,200.
Fincher indicated after the race that if the filly comes back well, the next stop for her may be a spot in the starting gate for the Grade I Kentuky Oaks at Churchill Downs on Fri., May 5.
“That’s the plan right now,” Fincher said. “We’re really proud of her effort.”
Sent off as the second choice in the wagering at odds of 1.30-to-1, Flying Connection paid $4.60 to her winning backers. Longshot Love Tank finished second with Ken Tohill aboard. The $2 exacta returned $54.60. Don’t Get Pickled was a well-beaten third with Una Palabra rounding out the top four finishers.
Doinitthehardway weakened in the lane and was a well-beaten fifth, beaten nearly 10 lengths.
In other stakes action on Sunday,
Amanda Sweeten’s Cityonthenile earned the first stakes win of her career, posting an upset score in the 29th running of the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap.
Ridden to victory by Francisco Amparan for trainer Andres S. Gonzalez, Cityonthenile dueled for the early lead with Unique Babe through an opening half mile of 47.43 seconds. The Kentukcky-bred daughter of Temple City had a clear lead midway around the far turn and held off a belated rally from Yankee Dollar and jockey Harry Hernandez before crossing the wire a half-length in front, stopping the clock for a mile in 1:38.64.
Cityonthenile finished first or second in each of her last four starts, most recently finishing a close second in an optional claiming sprint on Jan. 31. Cityonthenile was claimed by Sweeten on Mar. 1, 2022 for $6,250. Since that time, the 6-year-old mare has won five of her next nine starts. Her win in the Harry Henson gives her 13 wins from 36 career starts, padding her bankroll to nearly $210,000.
Sent off at 11-to-1 on the board, Cityonthenile paid $24 to her winning backers. The $2 exacta with runner-up Yankee Dollar returned $116.20. Lady Commissioner rallied after a slow start under jockey Glenn Corbett and finished third as the 11-to-10 post time favorite, with Brave Cinderella rounding out the top four finishers.
Eda, who was the morning line favorite, as well as Miss Hard Knocks were both scratched earlier in the day, reducing the field to seven runners in the Harry Henson Handicap.
Judge Lanier Racing earned its second stakes win of the day, as did jockey Leandro Goncalves, guiding Dean’s List to a narrow victory in a thrilling rendition of the 32nd running of the $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes.
Dean’s List, trained by H. Ray Ashford, Jr., was always within contention, not far behind dueling leaders Minister of Soul and Hollywood Henry. Those two raced almost as a pair through a moderate opening half mile timed in 46.03 seconds. Dean’s List battled on between horses as the field turned for home, fending off a pair of late challenges from Bye Bye Bobby and Truth Seeker to win by a neck, stopping the timer in 1:16.76 for 6 1/2 furlongs.
A 4-year-old gelded son of Speightstown, Dean’s List earned his fifth win from eight career starts. He came into the Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes off a pair of optional claiming wins at Sam Houston Race Park. Prior to that, he was second in the $100,000 Long Branch Handicap last spring at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey. Sunday’s win pads Dean’s List’s career bankroll to more than $261,000.
Sent off as the third choice on the board at odds of 2.70-to-1 on the board, Dean’s List paid $7.40. Truth Seeker, ridden by Alfredo Juarez, Jr., finished second, just in front of 8-to-5 post time favorite Bye Bye Bobby, with Goddard rounding out the top four finishers.
Valentino Who, owned by Juan Carlos Gutierrez, posted a massive upset under Jose Vasquez in the 18th running of the $250,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby.
The son of Comfort, dismissed on the toteboard at odds of nearly 45-to-1, rallied late down the center of the track and slipped past Still In The Trap in the shadow of the wire to earn the half-length victory, stopping the clock in a time of 1 minute, 45.46 seconds.
Trained by Jose A. Gonzalez, Valentino Who finished sixth in the Red Hedeman Mile last time out on Feb. 28. Prior to that, he beat claiming company here on Feb. 12 just one race after breaking his maiden at Zia Park on Nov. 21. The win in the New Mexico Breeders’ Derby pads the career bankroll for Valentino Who to more than $188,000.
Valentino Who returned $91.80 to his winning backers. Still In The Trap, ridden by Felipe Valdez and sent off as the 9-to-5 post time favorite, finished a length clear of the rest of the field when second best. The $2 exacta with the top pair paid a whopping $663.80. Smartsrealgood and jockey Francisco Amparan finished third, with George Who rounding out the top four.
I Think I’m Here, owned by Charles Dunleavy III, rallied late to take the 20th running of the $120,000 New Mexico State University Handicap under Alfredo Juarez, Jr.
The son of Marking chased a rather moderate tempo set by longshot All Chrome, ridden by Oscar Ceballos. All Chrome had had a slight lead over Strawberry Whisky through an opening six furlongs of 1 minute, 11.8 seconds. Juarez got busy on the outside of the dueling leaders aboard I Think I’m Here and found his way in front passing the furlong marker on the way to a 1 3/4 length win, racing 1:42.37 seconds for a mile and 70 yards.
I Think I’m Here was coming off an eighth-place finish Feb. 28 in the Albert and Henry Dominguez Memorial Handicap in his most recent start. Prior to that, he had won back-to-back races here and at Zia Park. I Think I’m Here earned his fourth win from 13 career starts and has amassed $192,000 in total earnings.
I Think I’m Here was sent off at odds of 10.30-to-1 and paid $22.60 to his winning backers. Jet N G rallied late to finish second under Jorge Carreno. The exacta with the top two finishers returned $59.60. All Chrome weakened late but held on for third, ahead of McMercelus to round out the top four finishers.
Elliot, ridden by Gabriel Arredondo, lost all chance after dumping the rider just out of the starting gate.
The field for the New Mexico State University Stakes was reduced to nine runners after Bodie Got Gold was scratched prior to the start after getting unruly in the gate. Morning line favorite Cheese Tray was scratched early in the day.
Judge Lanier Racing’s Crafty Money put away her competition at the head of the lane and cruised to an impressive win in the 13th running of the $250,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks.
Ridden by Leandro Goncalves for trainer Nancy Summers, Crafty Money dueled on the lead for much of the first six furlongs of the contest with post time favorite Doer Not A Faker, which was contested in a moderate time of 1 minute, 13.27 seconds. As the tempo quickened, Crafty Money put away her nearest rival and inched clear, winning by 2 1/2 lengths, stopping the clock in a time of 1:45.04 for 1 1/16 miles.
The 3-year-old daughter of Conquest Mo Money earned not only her first stakes win with her victory in the New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks, but broke her maiden at the same time. She previously was third in her most recent start, a maiden event here on March 5. Prior to that, she was a close second in the Enchantress Stakes over this course on on Feb. 19. Sunday’s win pads her lifetime earnings to nearly $175,000 while winning for the first time in four starts.
Sent off as the third choice in the wagering at odds of 2.70-to-1, Crafty Money paid $7.40 to win. Tiz A Journey rallied late under Ken Tohill to be second. The $2 exacta with the top two finishers paid back $20. Doer Not A Faker tired late and finished thrd with Moonlight Warrior crossing the wire a distant fourth.
Live racing resumes on Tuesday with a nine-race all-thoroughbred program which gets underway at 12:25 p.m. There are four days remaining in the current Sunland Park racing season, with closing day on Sunday.