04/06/2012 2:58PM

Sunland: Championship Challenge headlines rich stakes doubleheader for Quarter Horses


The Grade 2, $110,000 Sunland Park Championship Challenge is the first half of a rich stakes double for Quarter Horses at the New Mexico track on Sunday. The card also includes the $251,358 New Mexican Spring Futurity.

The Sunland Park Championship Challenge goes as the third race. Its winner will earn an automatic berth into the Grade 1, $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship to be held at Prairie Meadows on Oct. 27. A field of 10 is set to go in the Sunland Park qualifier, the starters having been determined through trial races on March 20.

Little Bit of Baja turned in the fastest qualifying time for the Sunland race, winning his 440-yard trial in 20.81 seconds. He edged fellow starter A Spring Snow by a nose, in what was his first start since January. Michael Joiner trains Little Bit of Baja, an 8-year-old who was second by a nose in the 2009 running of the Challenge Championship finale at Los Alamitos.

The field also includes Grade 1 winner Rylees Boy, who won his trial in 20.84. Rylees Boy has won four of his last seven starts, including the Grade 1 Remington Park Invitational Championship in May. Rylees Boy is also a Sunland specialist, with a 6-for-11 career record at the track.

Sir Seth, winner of the Grade 1 Zia Park Distance Championship in December, is also part of the Sunland field. He was third in his trial after a troubled start, finishing a length behind Rylees Boy.

The New Mexican Spring Futurity goes as the fourth race. It drew a field of 10 horses led by Conn Creek and Tombstone, who are both undefeated in two starts. Conn Creek set the fastest qualifying time for the New Mexican Spring Futurity when he won his 300-yard trial in 14.88 seconds March 16.

Conn Creek took his trial by two lengths, leading throughout at 4-5. Prior to that start, he won his career debut in a maiden race at Sunland on March 2. A.J. Martinez has the mount for Paul Blanchard and trainer Carlos Sedillo.

Tombstone also won his career debut in a Sunland maiden race March 2. He then came back and took his trial by 1 1/4 lengths, covering 300 yards in 15.15 seconds.