Isn't He Clever, returning to New Mexico after a fourth-place finish in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita earlier this month, heads a field of seven 3-year-olds entered for the $150,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino Feb. 25.
The Kentucky-bred gelding by Smarty Jones out of the Deputy Minister mare Sharp Minister is trained by Henry Dominguez for owners J. Kirk and Judy Robison. Isn't He Clever won the $104,200 Riley Allison Futurity by 11 3/4 lengths at Sunland prior to the Feb. 4 Robert B. Lewis. He set a stakes record of 1:15.10 in the 6 1/2-furlong Riley Allison.
The 1 1/16-mile Borderland Derby, sponsored by Casa Ford, is Sunland's major prep for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (gr. III) at 1 1/8 miles March 25. The Borderland, whose purse has been bumped from $100,000 this year, is set for a 4:45 p.m. MST post as the 11th race on the program.
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Isn't He Clever, 2-1 on the morning line, is unbeaten in three starts in New Mexico. The bay's only loss prior to his most recent start came in a close second-place finish in the Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park last November.
In the Lewis, which was his first route try, Isn't He Clever set a fast pressured pace for six furlongs under Corey Nakatani before gradually giving way. Alejandro Medellin, who has ridden Isn't He Clever to a pair of victories, reclaims the mount for Dominguez.
Isn't He Clever worked five furlongs Feb. 18 at Sunland and was timed in 1:01 2/5 breezing, second-fastest of 21 on the day. He will break from post 2.
Dominguez has a second entrant in the Borderland for the Robisons, a New Mexico homebred by Cuvee named So Far So Fast. The bay gelding has produced sprint wins in maiden special weight and allowance tests in his only two starts to date and will be stretching out for his stakes debut. Red hot rider Enrique Portillo Gomez will be aboard So Far So Fast, who is 6-1 on the morning line.
Zackn'mat, pegged at 5-2, ships in from Santa Anita where he registered a maiden special weight score in his first start of the year Jan. 29 for trainer Marty Jones and owner Gem Inc. The Kentucky-bred son of Northern Afleet raced three times as a 2-year-old and finished second twice, including a runner-up effort to the highly regarded Fed Biz Dec. 30 at Santa Anita.
Tequila Factor was fourth in the Dec. 30 Riley Allison last time for trainer C.L. Wilson, his first start since running 14th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) last fall. Impressive Sunland Park maiden winner Justanoldsong, Strong Resolve, and the Steve Asmussen-trained maiden Major Hope complete the field.
$150,000 Borderland Derby (Race 11, 4:45 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Zackn'mat (KY), H I Berrios, M F Jones, 5/2
2. Isn't He Clever (KY), A Medellin, H Dominguez 2/1
3. Strong Resolve (KY), C T Lambert, N A Koch, 15/1
4. So Far So Fast (NM), E P Gomez, H Dominguez, 6/1
5. Tequila Factor (KY), L Robletto, C L Wilson 5/1
6. Justanoldsong (KY), R Eikleberry, D Wolochuk, 6/1
7. Major Hope (KY), R Chapa, S M Asmussen, 6/1
All carry 121 pounds.