Sunland Park

Sunland Park

Courtesy of Sunland Park

Sunland Park Begins 76-Day Meet Dec. 7

Sunland Derby tops Thoroughbred stakes schedule; prep race named for Mine That Bird.

Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino begins an impressive $16 million live horse racing season Dec. 7 continuing through April 16.

The 76-day meet provides an abundant inventory of prestigious stakes races. Average daily purses for the new meet should exceed the $210,000 level.

The meet’s highlight is the $800,000 Sunland Derby (gr. III) to be run March 24. The 11th running of the Kentucky Derby prep race will be the culmination of a stakes filled card worth over $1 million. Last year’s 1 1/8-mile event was won by Daddy Nose Best  for trainer Steve Asmussen. Julien Leparoux piloted the winner for owners Mary and Robert Zollars.

The Sunland Derby is an integral part of the new point system for entry into the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The winner of Sunland Park’s biggest race will receive 50 qualifying points. The runner-up earns 20 points, followed by 10 for third and 5 points for fourth.

Mine That Bird won the 2009 Kentucky Derby following a fourth-place finish in the Sunland Derby. Sunland will pay tribute to the gelding with the $130,000 Mine That Bird Derby (formerly named the Borderland Derby) Feb. 23 as the main local prep for the Sunland Derby.

"Our effort in making Sunland Park racing a more prominent signal has been very successful," said Dustin Dix, Sunland Park director of racing. "Last year’s Sunland Derby day was a record breaker. The upcoming season looks very promising strengthened by terrific stables. We are also excited about the Sunland Derby being an important part of the new Kentucky Derby qualifying point system.”

The lucrative Sunland Derby program also includes the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, The $85,000 La Coneja Stakes, the $85,000 Harry Henson Handicap, the $85,000New Mexico Breeders' Derby, the $85,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks and the $85,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes for open horses racing six and one-half furlongs.

The 2013 Sunland Park Oaks winner receives 50 qualifying points towards the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.