Friday, April 18, 2014
Chitu, the winner of the meet’s richest race, was named horse of the meet at Sunland Park Racetrack, which ended its 76-day season on April 15.
A 3-year-old son of Henny Hughes racing for Charles and Susan Chu’s Tanma Corporation and trained by Bob Baffert, Chitu scored a 2 1/4-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile, $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) on March 23. The colt currently ranks 13th on the Kentucky Derby points qualifier list, and he is likely to make his next start in the 1 1/4-mile, $2-million Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 3.
The Sunland Park meet was also marked by a track-record attendance figure, as 18,642 attended the track’s Sunland Derby Day card.
Chitu was also named the meet’s top 3-year-old Thoroughbred. Other Thoroughbred season honors went to Sunland Park Oaks winner Awesome Baby (top 3-year-old filly), Riley Allison Futurity winner Rebranded (top 2-year-old colt or gelding), African Rose (top older mare), Homerun Berti and Warren’s Knockout (co-top sprinters), and Isn’t He Clever (top router).
The following Thoroughbreds were honored as the top New Mexico-breds during the meet -- Rose’s Desert and Tricky R. (co-top older mares), Proceed (top 2-year-old), Miss B R H (top 2-year-old filly), High Test Gal (top 3-year-old filly), Reaper (top 3-year-old colt or gelding), Mr. Wizard (top older horse), and Devons Ca Ching (top sprinter).
Feature Mr Bojangles was named Sunland Park’s Quarter Horse of the Meet. A 5-year-old stallion by Feature Mr Jess racing for R.D. Hubbard and Heysol Howlet from the barn of Paul Jones, Feature Mr Bojangles won the December 29, $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park (G1).
Other open Quarter Horse awards went to West Texas Futurity (G2) winner Boi George (top 2-year-old colt or gelding), West Texas Derby (G3) winner I Azoomed You Knew (top 3-year-old colt or gelding), TF Featured Effort and Feature Mr Who (co-top older horse), and Fire On The Fly (top 870 horse).
The following New Mexico-bred Quarter Horses were also honored -- New Mexican Spring Futurity (RG2) winner Winning Merlot (top state-bred 2-year-old filly), Spring Futurity runner-up Dungarees Version (top state-bred 2-year-old colt or gelding), Too Flash For You (top state-bred 3-year-old colt or gelding), Woodys Allstar (top state-bred 3-year-old filly, and Here Kittykittykitty (top older state-bred horse).
Another record was set in Sunland Park’s Thoroughbred trainer standings, as leading trainer Justin Evans won 93 races from 324 starters. Evans won eight stakes during the season, including the December 22, $104,800 Riley Allison Futurity with Tony Pennington’s Rebranded.
Ry Eikleberry was Sunland’s leading Thoroughbred jockey for the second consecutive season. Eikleberry rode the winners of 97 races from 366 mounts. He also won four Quarter Horse races at the track, which pushed his season combined total to 101 wins. Eikleberry plans to ride at Canterbury Park in Minnesota this summer.
Wes Giles led all Quarter Horse trainers with 27 wins from 123 starters, while Esgar Ramirez was the meet’s leading Quarter Horse jockey. Ramirez is a seven-time Sunland Park jockey champion.
Judge Lanier Racing was Sunland Park’s leading owner with 20 wins.
More than $19 million in purses were paid during the 76-day meet, an average of $251,200 per day. Average daily handle for the meet reached $729,654, an 8.5-percent decrease from the 2012-13 season. The total on-track handle of $5,631,692 was down slightly from last season’s $5,638,096.
“We were encouraged that our on-track business was so close to the previous year, and we broke our all-time record for attendance on Sunland Derby Day,” said director of racing Dustin Dix. “Our off-track support was hurt by the bad weather on the East Coast in the winter, and the added racing competition on Tuesdays.”
Dix also reported that Sunland Park’s average field size of 8.84 horses per race was down from last year’s 9.03.
“We’re going to look at ways to reverse these declines for our 2014-15 season,” Dix added.