Monday, April 15, 2013
SunRay Park will open its 39-day season with a nine-race program on Friday. Post time for the first race is scheduled for 3 p.m. (MDT).
Located in Farmington, New Mexico, in the state's Four Corners region, SunRay Park will present live racing four days a week on a Friday-through-Sunday and Tuesday schedule. First post time will be 3 p.m. (MDT) on Fridays and Tuesdays, and 12:55 p.m. on weekends.
SunRay's stakes schedule will feature 22 races, equally divided between Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. The meet's richest race, the 350-yard, $150,000-est. New Mexico Breeders' Futurity (RG3) for state-bred 2-year-olds, is slated for May 26. The Four Corners Futurity (G3), a 350-yard sprint for open 2-year-olds worth an estimated $100,000, will be run on June 16.
SunRay Park's closing day card on June 23 will be headed by the 1 1/8-mile, $75,000 San Juan County Commissioners Handicap, the meet's richest Thoroughbred race. Six of SunRay's Thoroughbred stakes are restricted to New Mexico-breds, including the 1-mile, $65,000 Jack Cole Handicap (R) for 3-year-olds and older on April 27.
SunRay director of racing Lonnie Barber said that he expects the track's overnight purses to average about $90,000 per day. Henry Dominguez, one of the southwest region's leading trainers and SunRay's second-leading Thoroughbred trainer last year, will be back with a stable this year. However, Barber said that leading trainer Justin Evans will not be returning.
“Justin told us he'll have a stable at Lone Star Park (in Texas) and Ruidoso Downs this spring and summer,” Barber said. “He'll ship in and run some of his horses at our track, but he's not going to have a stable here.
“We'll have some new people with smaller outfits coming in out of Idaho and Utah,” he added. “The more people we can get into our program, the more horses we'll have entered and the larger field sizes we'll have, and that will help the handle on our live races.”
Also, SunRay Park will be holding a benefit for Kenny “Puff” Moore on Saturday, April 27. A New Mexico native and familiar face around the state's racetracks, Moore was an assistant starter who was killed in a gate accident at Hialeah Park in January. On April 27, SunRay Park will donate the proceeds from its live racing, including food and beverage sales, to a fund to benefit his wife, Skeeter, and their three children. Fans will be able to contribute to the fund as well.
“Kenny's father, Ken Sr., was my assistant back in the 1970s when I was training,” Barber recalled. “I knew Kenny since he was a child. He was part of our racetrack family.”
SunRay Park's meet has always featured some of the best Thoroughbreds in the southwest region and the best Quarter Horses in the country. In fact, Feature Mr Bojangles won the Four Corners Futurity in 2011. He went on to win the 400-yard, $700,000 Rainbow Futurity (G1) at Ruidoso Downs and 400-yard, $259,943 Hobbs America Futurity (G2) at Zia Park and was voted that year's AQHA champion 2-year-old colt.
“We always look forward to our live meet,” Barber said. “We just hope that at some point we can get our economy in the Four Corners region going, get the oil and gas business up, and if we do we might be able to run more days. That would be good for everybody – it would be good for our facility, the county, the city, and the horsemen.”
SunRay Park's opening-day program will be headlined by the 6 1/2-furlong, $35,000 Inaugural Handicap, which drew a field of six. Dominguez will send out Imco Spirit, the 124-pound highweight and likely favorite. A 7-year-old gelding racing for J. Kirk and Judy Robison of El Paso, Texas, and Solitaire Stable, Imco Spirit scored a 4 1/2-length victory in last year's Inaugural.
Silver Chunkus, the lone New Mexico-bred in the field, is a 4-year-old gelding by Silver Season owned by Jay Rader and trained by Betty Rader. Silver Chunkus won both of his starts at Sunland Park this season, both against claiming company.
The Inaugural will run as the eighth race on Friday, with a scheduled post time of 5:48. The complete lineup, in post position order including jockey and weight assignments – Ultimate Question (Casey Lambert, 119), Jim's No Preacher (Alejandro Medellin, 120), Silver Chunkus (Macario Rodriguez, 117), Imco Spirit (Alfredo Juarez Jr., 124), Shotgun Willy (Brian Theriot, 115), and Gregor (Enrique Gomez, 122).
For more information on the SunRay Park meet, including a complete stakes schedule and condition book, visit the track's website at www.sunraygaming.com, and click on the “Simulcast & Live Racing” link at the top of the homepage.