Here is the complete Sunland Derby race day wrap-up courtesy of Eric Alwan, Director of Publicity from Sunland Park Racetrack. The accompanying photos are from Coady Photography.

Sunland Derby (GR III)

Daddy Nose Best closed with a furious late charge to win the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) in front of a throng of 18,384 fans and stamped himself a ticket for this year’s Kentucky Derby. The former $35,000 yearling purchase generated a career best performance under jockey Julien Leparoux to defeat a valiant Isn’t He Clever by three parts of a length in a thrilling 10th renewal of the Grade III Kentucky Derby prep race at one and one-eighth miles. The resurgent Scat Daddy colt found an opening with 3 furlongs to go in the feature while Isn’t He Clever raced 3 lengths clear heading into the stretch run. Leparoux roused his mount into 3-wide path and set sail after the leader.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Daddy Nose Best called upon his class and gradually wore down his energetic foe. In deep stretch, Daddy Nose Best swept on by the game Isn’t He Clever and raced to victory in a fast time of 1:48.59. He barely missed the track record of 1:48.20 held by Winsham Lad in 1962. More importantly, Daddy Nose Best clearly showed a love for the dirt surface coming off his nose victory in the El Camino Real Derby over the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields.

Leparoux said, “I got a fantastic effort from the horse. The past was set up perfect for him. He had plenty left at the end.”

After scoring his first Sunland Derby (Gr. III) win, a jubilant Asmussen said, “We have plenty of reasons for optimism. We feel good about him handling the 1 and 1/8 mile distance in a respectable time. This is everything we had hoped for. The spacing of his races was right. This race fit perfectly with his timing. He showed a great degree of maturity today and has improved a lot since his two year old season.” 

Asmussen added that the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs would be his next assignment. Daddy Nose best flies to Kentucky on Tuesday.

Sunland Derby

The 2012 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) champion is owned by the popular Mary and Robert Zollars of Dallas, Texas. The pair has raced three horses in the Kentucky Derby. Daddy Nose Best should be the fourth. He earned $400,000 in graded monies and escalated his career bankroll to $633,623 from 4 career wins. The 7-2 shot paid a generous $9.40 to win.

Isn’t He Clever ran a tremendous race to finish second. The Henry Dominguez trainee was coming off stakes record wins in both the Borderland Derby and Riley Allison Futurity. With jockey Luis Contreras at the controls, the Smarty Jones gelding shot clear past the fading pace setters at the three-eighth pole and looked the part of a winner. The home course star continued to throttle up on the lead racing in upper stretch. He never lost momentum but was simply overhauled in the final stanza by a terrific horse. Isn’t He Clever finished over 7 lengths in front of the third place finisher, Stirred Up.

Locally owned by Judy and Kirk Robison, Isn’t He Clever picked up $176,000 in graded money and gained a great deal of prestige after Sunday’s feature. The bay gelding has earned nearly $410,000 in his young career. The Robisons won the Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes (Imco Spirit) and the Harry Henson Handicap (Twelve Twenty Two) on the undercard. The runner-up raced 3-1 second choice. 

Stirred Up, one of two Bob Baffert trained runners, closed belatedly to gain third place with jockey Martin Garcia. The expensive Lemon Drop Kid colt earned a $96,000 payday for owner Robert LaPenta.

No Spin wound up in fourth place followed by Ender Knievel, Tequila Factor, Castaway and Justanoldsong.

8-5 favorite Castaway trained by Baffert and Ender Knievel from the Todd Pletcher barn promoted a hot pace of 22.48 and 46.24 seconds, respectively. The two runners paid the price and were out of gas 6 furlongs into the race. Castaway was coming off a Grade III win in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He was ridden by Rafael Bejarano. John Velazquez rode Ender Knievel.

Betting was very brisk on the 2012 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) program. An all-sources handle of $3,586,225 was wagered on the 13-race card. The tally was the largest handle ever recorded at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino and the largest handle in New Mexico racing history.

Sunland Oaks

The classy Princess Arabella made short work of the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks and scored an easy 8-length victory under jockey Martin Garcia. The large three-year-old filly by Any Given Saturday towered over her opponents in size and speed. The 1-5 favorite trained by Bob Baffert led every step of the way and was the easiest of winners. The unbeaten sophomore remained unbeaten in three career starts. She is following in the footsteps of her older stable mate Plum Pretty who the 2011 Sunland Park Oaks and went on to win the 2011 Kentucky Oaks.

The Sunland Oaks

Princess Arabella glided through the one and one-sixteenth miles in a good 1:43.52. She had plenty left in the tank for the Peachtree Stable of Wellington, Florida. The chestnut sensation earned $120,000 and looks destined for more stakes victories in the near future.

In a magnificent display, Twelve Twenty Rose remained unbeaten over Sunland soil after another dominating victory in the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap. The defending champion romped away from a solid field of Santa Anita runners and won by 12 and one-quarter lengths under jockey Luis Contreras. The classy Kafwain mare won her seventh race from seven tries over the local oval and was timed in a sharp 1:35.72 for the one mile. Winning trainer Henry Dominguez said, “I was amazed how well she ran. I knew she was training well. I didn’t think she would show the type of speed she showed. Her final kick was good.” Dominguez indicated Twelve Twenty Two may have a return trip to Kentucky where she could run in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day.

Harry W Henson

Winning owners Kirk and Judy Robison of El Paso, Texas collected the $60,000 first place prize. Mr. Robison said, “She just loves it here. Henry keeps her happy. We couldn’t be happier with her.”

Harry W. Henson

Twelve Twenty Two just missed the one mile track record of 1:34.62. She earned her seventh win in her last eight tries. The seven-year-old Florida-bred has earned over $288,000. The 2-time Harry Henson winner raced as the 6-5 favorite and paid $4.40 to win. Kayce Ace finished in second place, nearly 10 lengths in front of Remit. The runner-up is owned by Bill Casner and trained by Eoin Harty.

 Rose’s Desert exploded in mid-stretch to take a visually impressive 3 and 1/2 length win in the $110,000 La Coneja Stakes. The splendid Desert God filly unleashed an energetic move down the lane and raced past defending champion Shemoves en route to a rapid win in the five and one-half furlong stakes for New Mexico-breds three-year-olds. Jockey Casey Lambert rode a perfect race and scored his second win of the day.

La Coneja Stakes

Todd Fincher conditions Rose’s Desert for owner Joe Peacock of San Antonio, Texas. Rose’s Desert won the New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap last December and was second in the Sydney Valentini Handicap last February.

New Mexico Breeders Oaks

Dashkova upset heavily bet Dawn Is Affirmed to win the $110,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks at one and one-sixteenth miles. Under jockey Jose Rivera, Dashkova responded with a strong stretch running effort and inhaled the big favorite in mid-stretch and never looked back. The three-year-old New Mexico-bred daughter of Attila’s Storm won by over 2 lengths and paid $29.80 on a $2 win ticket. She earned $66,000 for the Double Kee LLC of Phoenix, Arizona. Dwain Grissom trained the winner.

Red hot jockey Luis Contreras won his third race of the day aboard the resurgent Imco Spirit in the $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes at six and one-half furlongs. The multiple stakes winner found his top form on Sunday with a powerful closing finish. Racing as the 5-2 second choice. Imco Spirit finished eagerly to overhaul Ribald in the stretch and win by one and one-half lengths. Ribald fought hard in second place followed by the tough Quiet Again in third. Imco Spirit earned $60,000 for owners Kirk and Judy Robison of El Paso, Texas.The former claimer is trained by the sharp Henry Dominguez.

That’s Who became the only triple stakes winner of the meet after a courageous win in the $110,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby at one and one-sixteenth miles. The unstoppable New Mexico-bred star held off a spirited drive from I Do My Own My Tricks. The even money favorite ran boldly once again under jockey Ry Eikleberry and sped through the distance in a sharp 1:44.60. That’s Who won the Red Hedeman Mile and the Pepsi Cola Stakes earlier in the meet. He was a perfect three for three during the meet for trainer Joel Marr. The razor sharp son of Quinton’s Gold has six career wins. The 2-length winner earned $66,000 for owners Sam and Latane Stevens of Lamesa, Texas.

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