Mine That Bird Derby Highlights Sunday Card at Sunland Park

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 18th, 2018

On a bit of a quiet weekend of racing, Sunland Park in New Mexico will take center stage on February 25th when hosting a nine-race card that includes three stakes races.

The first of the featured events is the $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes (Race 7), a one-mile race for three-year-old fillies that serves as a local prep for the March 25th Sunland Park Oaks. A small field of six has been entered, with the filly to beat being Blamed, who has won her last three starts by a combined 17 ¾ lengths. That includes an easy win in the 6 ½-furlong El Paso Times Stakes at Sunland Park, in which she set blazing fractions of :21.69 and :43.98 before drawing off to win by 4 ½ lengths. Laudation, runner-up in the El Paso Times and a stakes winner at Remington Park, looms as the most likely upset candidate, while Kram—the only filly to ever defeat Blamed—will be seeking to rebound from a disappointing seventh-place finish in the El Paso Times.

The eighth race on the card is the $75,000 Curribot Handicap for three-year-olds and older going a mile and a sixteenth. Several veterans of the New Mexico circuit are among the nine entrants, including the amazing ten-year-old Forest Mouse, winner of the 2017 Curribot and 9-for-17 overall at Sunland. But he’ll have to be sharp to turn the tables on the four-year-old newcomer Blue Azul, who arrived on the New Mexico circuit last year and proceeded to rattle off four straight wins for Sunland’s leading trainer Justin Evans, including a 2 ¾-length romp over Forest Mouse in a one-mile allowance optional claiming race at Sunland earlier this month.

The final and most notable race of the day is the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby, an 8.5-furlong prep race for the March 25th Sunland Derby (gr. III). On paper, it’s hard to look past the talented Runaway Ghost, a two-time stakes winner who romped to an eye-catching 7 ¾-length victory in the Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland last month after rebuffing several challenges throughout the race. The Todd Fincher-trained son of Ghostzapper appears to be clearly best of the local runners, though the recent Sunland maiden winner Sphene could be ready to step up off his promising debut victory, and Reride—shipping in off a narrow win in the Big Drama Stakes at Delta Downs for Hall of Fame trainer —could make things interesting if Runaway Ghost doesn’t fire his best shot.

Post time for the first race of the day is 2:30 p.m. Eastern.