Isn't He Clever surges to victory in the Borderland Derby.

Isn't He Clever surges to victory in the Borderland Derby.

Lisa Dominguez/ Coady Photography

Isn't He Clever Feeling at Home in Borderland

Smarty Jones gelding gets back to winner's circle with return to Sunland Park.

Isn't He Clever happily returned to New Mexico for trainer Henry Dominguez, where he produced a sharp 1 3/4-length tally in the $150,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino Feb. 25 (VIDEO).

A winner in all four of his starts in New Mexico, including an 11 3/4-length romp in the Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland Dec. 30, the son of Smarty Jones  defeated six opponents in the 1 1/16-mile test of 3-year-olds that was sponsored by Casa Ford. The race is the major local prep for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (gr. III) March 25 at 1 1/8 miles.

Isn't He Clever enjoyed a stalking trip under Alejandro Medellin, pouncing on the leaders on the final turn and opening up a 3 1/2-length advantage after floating out a bit in upper stretch. Under a steady drive from Medellin, Isn’t He Clever was never threatened as the 3-2 second choice. He was timed in 1:43 flat, just over a second off the track mark.

This was the first start for Isn't He Clever since he placed fourth after setting the pace in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 4. The bay gelding races for owners Kirk and Judy Robison of El Paso, Texas, and was bred in Kentucky by Monticule. Out of the Deputy Minister mare Sharp Minister, he sold for $45,000 as a 2010 Keeneland September yearling.

Even-money choice Zackn'mat, a recent maiden graduate invading from Santa Anita for trainer Marty Jones, rallied from last to finish second with Hector Barrios aboard. They were 10 lengths clear of the third-place finisher Major Hope, a maiden trained by Steve Asmussen.

Isn’t He Clever relaxed kindly in the three path and was free of traffic while chasing stablemate So Far So Fast and Tequila Factor, who flashed quarter-mile fractions of :24.05, :47.90, and 1:12.08. After Medellin gave his mount the cue to go rounding the far turn, Isn’t He Clever accelerated to the front and won as much the best.

“We couldn’t have had a better trip," Dominguez said. "The race wound up like we had planned. He ran a lot better today. Last time out, the rider wanted the early lead, and that’s not what we wanted. We learned a lot today, and now have a better idea of where to place him.”

The winner's share of $90,000 improved Isn't He Clever's bankroll to $215,960 with four wins and a second in six starts.

“We tested the waters in California and found the water a little deep," Kirk Robison said. "We won the Riley Allison easily, and today we beat a bunch of good horses. So we are back on track. The Sunland Derby is in our plans. Why go anywhere else? The money goes right into the bank.”

Under equal weights of 121 pounds, Isn't He Clever paid $5, $2.40, and $2.10. Zackn'mat returned $2.40 and $2.10. The exacta was $9.20. Major Hope paid $2.40.

So Far So Fast, Tequila Factor, Justanoldsong, and Strong Resolve completed the order.