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                                SUNLAND PARK
Sunland Park ended its 75-day Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meet on Sunday, May 5.
Once again, Sunland Park set a single- day state handle record on Sunland Derby Day, March 24. The highest-profile day of the track’s season drew an on-track crowd
of 16,957, which wagered $327,790. Total handle on Sunland Derby Day reached $4,743,602 -- including $4,415,812 off-track -- which broke by 11 percent the previ-
ous state record of $4,278,344 wagered on Sunland Derby Day 2018.
Cutting Humor, a Kentucky-bred First Samurai colt owned by Starlight Racing, won the 1 1/8-mile, $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3), the southwest region’s major Triple Crown prep. John Velazquez rode Cutting Humor for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The 1 1/16-mile, $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, the region’s major Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep, was won by Summer Wind Equine’s Chasing Yesterday. Drayden Van Dyke rode the Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit for trainer Bob Baffert.
Sunland Park’s richest race for New Mexico-breds, the 4 1/2-furlong, $149,352 Copper Top Futurity (R) on May 4, was won by Glenn and Linda Berry’s Shame On Read. Elvin Gonzalez rode the homebred son of the Indian Charlie stallion Shame On Charlie for trainer Dallas Barton.
Other prominent Thoroughbred stakes dur- ing the Sunland meet included the 1 1/8-mile, $150,000 Sunland Park Handicap on May 4. Joe Peacock’s Runaway Ghost, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old son of Ghostzapper and the New Mexico-bred Desert God mare Rose’s Desert, won the 9-furlong test as the 1-2 favorite in a
field of six. Santiago Gonzalez rode the bay colt for trainer Todd Fincher.
Sunland Park’s meet, which opened December 28, also featured prominent Quarter Horses. Two-time AQHA world champion Jessies First Down won the season’s rich-
est open stakes for sprinters, the 440-yard, $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park (G1) on December 30. Rodrigo Vallejo rode the homebred 7-year-old Fdd Dynasty gelding for owner Ted G. Abrams of Houston, Texas, and trainer Jimmy Padgett.
The 25th running of the 300-yard New Mexican Spring Futurity (RG2) for state-bred 2-year-old Quarter Horses offered the stakes second-richest purse, $393,483. U S Alliance Logistic’s Honky Tonk Daddy, a sorrel daugh- ter of Big Daddy Cartel trained by Jose Muela, banked the $184,937 winner’s share of the rich purse. Ricky Ramirez rode the filly, who was a $14,000 yearling buy at last year’s New Mexico-Bred Sale at Ruidoso Downs.
Luis Contreras led all Sunland Park Thoroughbred jockeys with 71 wins from 240 mounts, 27 more than runner-up Ry Eikleberry, who rode the winners of 44 races from 276 mounts. Contreras also topped all Thoroughbred riders in mount earnings at $1,212,137.
Sunland Park’s leading Thoroughbred trainer, Justin Evans, prepped 37 winners from 135 start- ers, six more than runner-up Miguel Hernandez, who won 31 races from 165 starters. Evans also reached the 2,000-win milestone during the meet. Todd Fincher led all Thoroughbred trainers in starter earnings with $934,786.
Tom and Sandy McKenna’s Judge Lanier Racing of Taiban, New Mexico, dominated Sunland’s Thoroughbred owner standings with 43 winners from 237 starters, 33 more than runners-up Harry L. Veruchi and Tricar Stables Inc., which each won 10 races. Judge Lanier Racing also topped all Thoroughbred owners in purse earnings at $793,893.
On the Quarter Horse side, leading jockey Manuel Gutierrez won 22 races from 123 mounts, five more than runner-up Alonso Rivera, who won 17 races from 91 mounts. Gutierrez also topped all Sunland Park’s Quarter Horse jockeys in mount earnings at $550,201, much of which was banked when Gutierrez rode Perrys Secret
to victory in the 300-yard, $323,571 West Texas Futurity (G1) on closing day.
Cynthia Gonzalez won Sunland Park’s Quarter Horse training title, edging out runner-up Jose Muela. Gonzalez won 14 races from 91 starters, one more than Muela, who won 13 races from 73 start- ers. However, Muela was the track’s top Quarter Horse trainer in starter earnings with $501,503.
Norberto Morales Perez was Sunland Park’s leading Quarter Horse owner with five wins from 29 starters, one more than runner-up Diamond Racing Stables, which won four races from 30 starters. U S Alliance Logistic, the owner of New Mexican Spring Futurity winner Honky Tonk Daddy, was the track’s leading Quarter Horse owner in purse earnings at $238,900.
Sunland Park started its 2018-19 season about two weeks later and ended it about three weeks later than in recent years. At press time, the track’s 2019-20 dates had not been set.
by Michael Cusortelli
   SUMMER 2019 63
Coady Photgraphy

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