11/12/2009 12:00AM

Graded status would make rich race richer


The Sunland Park Derby, which produced this year's Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, will be worth $800,000 for its 2010 running if it receives a grade for next year. Otherwise, the purse will be $600,000. The race, run at 1 1/8 miles, is set for March 28, 2010.

Either way, the Sunland Park Derby will be the richest race of the Sunland Park mixed meet for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses that opens Dec. 11. The 77-date meet will run through April 20, 2010. Purses for the meet are projected to average $230,000 a program.

Sunland Park will offer 31 stakes for Thoroughbreds. The Sunland Park Derby will share a card with five other stakes, including the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks at 1 1/16 miles. Last meet, the Oaks was won by future Grade 1 Acorn winner Gabby's Golden Gal.

Mine That Bird was fourth to Kelly Leak in the Sunland Park Derby, then won the Kentucky Derby in his next start. Mythical Power, the runner-up in the Sunland Park Derby, and Advice, who was fifth, also returned to win graded stakes - Mythical Power won the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby, and Advice won the Grade 2 Lexington.

"We are proud of Mine That Bird's accomplishments and all of the horses that ran in the Sunland Derby and believe we have a strong case to be graded for our eighth running in March," said Dustin Dix, the director of racing for Sunland.

Other top events on the stakes calendar include the $100,000 Riley Allison Futurity on Dec. 29; the $100,000 Borderland Derby at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 27; and the $100,000 Sunland Park Handicap on April 18. The top event for Quarter Horses is the Grade 1, $350,000 Championship on Dec. 26.