Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winner Chitu named Horse of the Meet

KDBC
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 10:18pm

$800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winner Chitu was named the Horse of the Meet and top three-year-old Thoroughbred for the recently concluded live racing season at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.

Owned by Charles and Susan Chu, Chitu won Sunland Park’s biggest race and is currently ranked 13th in the 2014 Kentucky Derby qualifier list. Bob Baffert’s talented pupil turned away Midnight Hawk to win by over 2 lengths with Martin Garcia in the saddle. Chitu is a likely starter for this year’s Run for the Roses. Both Baffert and Garcia have won the last two Sunland Derbies (Gr. III).

An all-time record attendance of 18,642 fans came out to witness the 2014 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) on March 23.

In one of the most dominating performances in Sunland Park history, trainer Justin Evans raced away to his second straight Sunland Park Thoroughbred Training title with a racino record 93 wins from 324 starters. The Evans armada won at an astounding clip of nearly 30 per cent and took home over $1.5 million in purses. Evans won an incredible 8 stakes races during the campaign including the $100,000 Riley Allison Futurity with Rebranded. The young conditioner saddled both Homerun Berti and African Rose to multiple stakes wins each last season. Warren’s Knockout took a thrilling win over Wine Police and Isn’t He Clever in the $75,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes. Sunland’s top trainer will be sending divisions to SunRay Park, Ruidoso Downs and Arapahoe Park this summer.

Ry Eikleberry in turn won his second straight Sunland Park Thoroughbred jockey championship with 97 wins from 366 mounts for an impressive 27 per cent winning clip. He also won four Quarter Horses races pushing his combined tally to 101 wins. Eikleberry will take his riding talents to Canterbury Park this summer.

Esgar Ramirez and Wes Giles were crowned the leading Quarter Horse jockey and trainer, respectively. Ramirez is a 7-time leading jockey at Sunland Park. Giles enjoyed a particularly strong campaign 27 wins from 123 starters including two big stakes wins with the great Here Kittykittykitty.

Judge Lanier Racing led by Mr. Tom McKenna was the leading owner with 20 combined wins.

New Mexico-bred sensation Proceed had a huge meet for trainer Joel Marr. The son of Desert God romped to victory in the $85,000 Red Hedeman Mile and defeated open company in the $120,000 Mine That Bird Derby. He remains undefeated in three career starts.

Isn’t He Clever’s near 10-length win in the $75,000 Sunland Park Handicap was especially memorable. Mr. Wizard was outstanding winning both the $85,000 Albert Dominguez Memorial Handicap and the $85,000 NMSU Handicap.

Feature Mr Bojangles beat some of the best Quarter Horses in the world in the $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park (Grade 1) last December. The former Paul Jones student has been retired to stud.

Over $19 million in purses was paid out to horsemen over the 76 day meet. Average daily purses reached a healthy $251,200. Average daily handle for the season was $729,654, which was down 8.48% from last year. On-track support was strong as the figures nearly mirrored last year’s on-track handle.

Director of Racing Dustin Dix said, “We are encouraged that the on-track business was so close to the previous year, and we broke the all-time record for attendance on Sunland Derby (Gr. III) day. Our off-track support was hurt by the bad weather on the East Coast in the winter and the added racing competition on Tuesday.”

Here are the 2013-14 Sunland Park champions:

HORSE OF THE MEET and TOP 3-YEAR-OLD - CHITU.

Top 3-year-old filly – AWESOME BABY.

Top 2-year-old colt or gelding – REBRANDED.

Best older mare – AFRICAN ROSE.

Leading Sprinter – HOMERUN BERTI and WARREN’S KNOCKOUT.

Best Router – ISN’T HE CLEVER.

Champion New Mexico-bred mare – ROSE’S DESERT and TRICKY R.

Champion 2-year-old New Mexico-bred – PROCEED.

Top 2-year-old New Mexico-bred filly – MISS B R H.

Best 3-year-old New Mexico-bred filly – HIGH TEST GAL.

Best 3-year-old New Mexico-bred colt or gelding – REAPER.

Champion older New Mexico-bred – MR. WIZARD.

Leading New Mexico-bred Sprinter – DEVONS CA CHING.

QUARTER HORSE OF THE MEET – FEATURE MR BOJANGLES.

Best 2-year-old colt or gelding – BOI GEORGE.

Top 3-year-old colt or gelding - I AZOOMED YOU KNEW.

Top older horse – TF FEATURED EFFORT and FEATURE MR WHO.

Best 870 horse – FIRE ON THE FLY.

Top New Mexico-bred 2-year-old colt or gelding – DUNGAREES VERSION.

Top New Mexico-bred 2-year-old filly – WINNING MERLOT.

Best New Mexico-bred 3-year-old colt or gelding – TOO FLASH FOR YOU.

Leading Older New Mexico-bred – HERE KITTYKITTYKITTY.

Top New Mexico-bred 3-year-old filly – WOODYS ALLSTAR.

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