Sunland Park has effectively canceled this year's editions of the Sunland Derby (gr. III) and the Sunland Park Oaks, both significant points races for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Sunland Park director of racing Dustin Dix March 6 said two 3-year-old races will still be run March 20 at the New Mexico track, but they will be under a different name. The race for males will have its purse dropped from $800,000 to $415,000—and won't run as a graded event—and the race for fillies will stay steady with a purse of $200,000. Niether race will offer points toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks.
Sunland Park still expects to lift its quarantine March 9, which was brought on by an outbreak of equine herpesvirus. The track began quarantine procedures Jan. 21.
In a follow-up release March 7, Sunland Park said the decision was made jointly with the New Mexico Horsemen's Association to cancel the two races for this year. The two parties said the EHV-1 quarantine date will be lifted only 11 days prior to Sunland Derby and Oaks day; owners and trainers who normally participate and support the Derby and Oaks needed to be made aware as soon as possible so they can turn their focus to other qualifying races for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks; and protecting the integrity of the Sunland Derby and the Oaks with regard to graded status and points earned for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks.
Track officials said Sunland Park has been commended by Churchill Downs, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and the American Graded Stakes Committee for considering the future of the races and safe-guarding the quality of the horses that are allowed to compete at Churchill Downs.
Sunland Park will run eight stakes worth $1,185,000 March 19-20. The two days of racing will be called the "Festival of the Sun."
Last year, Firing Line won the Sunland Derby by 14 1/4 lengths and went on to run second to American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby. Maybellene took last year's edition of the Sunland Park Oaks via disqualification, but did not participate in the Kentucky Oaks.