The $120,000 Mine That Bird Derby, the key local prep for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III), will be run on Saturday at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.
Formerly named the Borderland Derby, the Mine That Derby has the moniker of the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner who hailed from Sunland Park. Saturday’s main event (10th race) presents a solid field of three-year-olds racing one and one-sixteenth miles.
Dry Summer leads the local contingent coming off a solid route win over Stormdriver and Riley Allison Futurity winner Show Some Magic. Joel Marr trains the son of Any Given Saturday for owners Sam Britt and Michael House of Grenville, New Mexico. Last summer, Dry Summer won the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf at Del Mar while racing for trainer Jeff Mullins. His Sunland win on January 27 was his first victory over a dirt surface. Carlos Madeira rides the 5-2 favorite.
Kentucky Derby winning trainer Doug O’Neill ships in Greeley Awesome from California. The fast closing colt by Mr. Greeley has won his last three races over 3 different racetracks (Golden Gate, Santa Anita and Betfair Hollywood Park). He should relish the distance of the Mine That Bird Derby. Saul Arias rides the 3-1 shot. O’Neill won the 2003 and 2005 WinStar Derbies at Sunland Park with Excessivepleasure and Thor’s Echo, respectively.
Henry Dominguez saddles two horses with Show Some Magic and Hardliner. The former is another well traveled son of Any Given Saturday with graded stakes experience. After finishing out of the money in the Grade 2 Hopeful, Jean Laffitt and Grade 3 Delta Jackpot, Show Some Magic scored in the Riley Allison Futurity last December. He is owned by Sunland Park’s leading Thoroughbred owners Kirk and Judy Robison of El Paso, Texas. Dominguez also trains the Rock Hard Ten colt Hardliner who is coming off a nice local maiden win on Feb. 12.
Ize In Command, Invasive Cocktail and Stormdriver help round out the promising field. The $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) will be run on Sunday, March 24.
Isn’t He Clever, a high powered multiple stakes winner, returns to action in Saturday’s 6th race at five and one-half furlongs. Kirk and Judy Robison’s star runner won the Riley Allison Futurity, the Borderland Derby and was second in the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) last season. The son of Smarty Jones polished off his 2012 season with a 13-length win in the Ruidoso Thoroughbred Derby on September 1. The four-year-old gelding sports earnings of nearly $433,000 from 5 career wins. Luis Contreras rides for trainer Henry Dominguez. Isn’t He Clever has recorded four useful workouts in preparation for his comebacker.
Tom Proctor’s Branding leads a high quality group of three-year-old fillies running in Sunday’s $50,000 Island Fashion Stakes at one mile. Branding is coming off a rousing Santa Anita maiden win on January 12. The talented Street Sense filly earned a potent 80 Beyer Speed Figure. She will have Ken Tohill in the saddle.
Countess Curlin is a 2-time winner on the Texas circuit. Trainer Steve Asmussen has assigned Luis Contreras the mount.
Len Schermer’s Lady of Luck also rates highly in the Island Fashion. The Curlin filly hails from the top barn of Justin Evans. Challenging, Sheatopattraction, Fraudulentfootnote, Derby Hat and Infinitely are also part of the field.
The Island Fashion is the local prep for the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks to be run on Sunday, March 24. Post time on Saturday and Sunday is 1 p.m.