Sunland Park's GM Honored in El Paso

Efforts include bringing first graded stake to track.

The general manager of Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino, home base of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird, has been honored as El Paso’s "Sportsman of the Year" by a local weekly newspaper.

The El Paso Inc. newspaper noted that Harold Payne, the Sunland Park GM, had brought the track back from "such dire conditions some horsemen were abandoning the track" to one that has produced a Derby winner and also attained grade III status for its signature race, the Sunland Derby.

"When he took over as general manager in 1990 the He pleaded with and cajoled enough of them to stay and keep the track going by dangling hopes of a casino in the future," the newspaper said in its Dec. 13-19 edition. "When the casino became a reality in 1999 and brought in revenue, Payne, with the blessing of owner Stan Fulton, oversaw installation of improvements in facilities and purses that have made Sunland Park Racetrack the jewel of Southwest horse racing. And this year, through years of hard and relentless work by him and his staff, the Sunland Derby was graded, which will give the track and El Paso even greater national prominence."