Sunland Park racing season set to begin on Friday

The 59th live racing season at Sunland Park Racetrack Casino and Hotel begins on Friday and a terrific line-up of all-star stakes races is planned for Saturday and Sunday. Post time will be 12:30 p.m. on Friday and that starting time will remain in effect the entire season. Racing will be conducted on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday basis through Tuesday, April 17, 2018.

Saturday’s card is impeccable powered by the $65,000 KLAQ Handicap (9th race) at 5 furlongs. A robust field of ten sprinters with combined lifetime earnings of over $1.8 million has signed on for battle. The Justin Evans trained trio of Redneck Humor, Concord Fast and Mt Veeder will be extremely tough to beat in one of the best KLAQ Handicaps in memory.

Redneck Humor won six straight stakes this year including the Bill Thomas Memorial Handicap before finishing an unlucky second to stablemate Mt Veeder in the Zia Sprint Championship on November 22. The 3-1 morning line favorite is particularly fond of the Sunland Park oval having also won last season’s Budweiser Handicap. He should also like his #9 post position and a possible traffic free trip. Miguel Perez pilots the 14-time winner of nearly $440,000.  Redneck Humor ranks as one of the most prolific sprinters in New Mexico.

Concord Fast rates another high profile threat from the Evans barn. The rejuvenated four-year-old gelding is back in top form having defeated solid allowance foes at Zia Park by over 3 lengths. In 2016, Concord Fast won the Mine that Bird and Riley Allison Stakes so he loves his new surroundings. 5-time Sunland park riding champion Ry Eikleberry gets the call.

Mt Veeder, a son of former Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, looks like the rabbit in the race with his keen acceleration. He is coming off a career best performance with a 16-1 upset win in the Zia Sprint by a margin of 2 lengths. Alfredo Juarez, Jr returns for the mount. The former $10,000 claimer has won 6 of his last 7 races and is obviously peaking for the KLAQ Handicap.

Luke Kruytbosch Stakes winner Kaabraaj merits respect shipping in from Turf Paradise for trainer Jeff Metz. The highly successful jockey Scott Stevens will ride.

Running Dragon efforts to remain unbeaten over Sunland Park soil in the $85,000 Jess Burner Memorial Handicap (10th race) at 400 yards. The outstanding New Mexico-bred mare has never lost in 6 local starts. Last season, she won the Shue Fly Stakes, NMHBA Stakes and the Sunburst Stakes. Last time out, the daughter of Zulu Dragon captured a clutch win in the $140,0000 New Mexico Filly and Mare Championship at Zia Park. The grey speedball is back in stellar form with $695,842 in the bank from 11 career wins. Adrian A. Ramos will ride for trainer Juan Carlos Gonzalez.

Proven stakes winners Carson City Girl, Major Bites and Seeyalateralligator are also part of a strong Jess Burner cast.

Young Thoroughbreds get attention in the 5th race allowance going one mile with aspirations of running in the Riley Allison Derby in January. The stakes placed two-year-old gelding Bortstein has shown much promise with his strong late kick. The Justin Evans trainee is named after the renowned award winning radio broadcaster Steve Bortstein from Farmington, New Mexico.

Sunday’s live program features two big stakes:  the $85,000 New Mexico Racing Commission Handicap (8th race) at 6 furlongs and the $85,000 Johnie L. Jamison Handicap (9th race) at 6 and one-half furlongs.

Diabolical Dame, one of the greatest New Mexico-bred mares of all time, casts a long shadow in the New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap. The 15-time winner is coming off two driving stakes wins and remains ultra-consistent for trainer Todd Fincher. The daughter of Diabolical has dominated this division for years and even defeated open company last season by taking the Bold Ego Handicap. Roimes Chirinos retains the mount on the multiple stakes winner of nearly $675,000.

Fincher holds a strong hand in the feature as La Senora and Enchantress Stakes winner Sippin will run along with Tilla Cat and the speedy Tijuana.

Citizen Geller, namesake of Sunland Park’s longtime announcer Robert Geller, makes his local return in the Johnie Jamison. The local favorite won two stakes at Albuquerque and finished a fast closing second to Forger in the New Mexico Cup Sprint at Zia Park. The stretch running grey has won over a quarter million dollars in the last two years. He has won 3 of 5 races this year.  Citizen Geller is the pride of the UKUSA Stables led by Larry and Denise Nichols of El Paso and has earned nearly $340,000.

R.D. Hubbard’s Forger may go favored after his recent win over Citizen Geller. The determined son of Attila’s Ghost is enjoying a career year with 3 wins, 3 seconds and 1 third from 10 starts. His efficient stalking style is very effective at this distance. Todd Fincher’s charge has finished in the exacta 13 times from 21 starts. Roimes Chirinos will ride.

The 3rd annual Holiday at the Park will be staged on Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event is an excellent opportunity for racing fans to wrap up Holiday gift shopping. Admission and parking are free.

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