Updated on 03/28/2012 5:55PM

Sunland: Daddy Nose Best takes Sunland Derby with late rally

Coady Photography
Julien Leparoux celebrates by pumping his fist as Daddy Nose Best reaches the wire first in the Sunland Derby.

Daddy Nose Best put himself in the Kentucky Derby picture on Sunday, when he wore down Isn’t He Clever for a three-quarter length win in the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Park Derby.

“We came here trying to earn our way into the Kentucky Derby,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Daddy Nose Best for Bob and Cathy Zollars.

The Sunland Derby was the centerpiece of a seven-stakes card at Sunland. The races were worth a combined $1.6 million, making the program the richest of the meet in New Mexico.

Daddy Nose Best ($9.40) appears to be coming to hand at an opportune time. The Sunland Derby was his second straight Grade 3 win at 1 1/8 miles, having entered the race off a nose win in the El Camino Real Derby. He picked up $120,000 in graded earnings for that score at Golden Gate, then took home another $400,000 for his win in the Sunland Derby.

Daddy Nose Best raced in sixth in the early stages of the race, about five lengths behind favorite Castaway and Ender Knievel, who dueled through an opening quarter in 22.48 seconds and a half-mile in 46.24. Isn’t He Clever overtook the leaders through six furlongs in 1:10.83, and moved into the stretch with a two-length advantage. Daddy Nose Best gradually worked his way past the leader in the later stages, to cover the distance on a fast track in 1:48.59.

Julien Leparoux was aboard Daddy Nose Best, who picked off his biggest career score Sunday.

“I’m very glad to see this horse have success in a race at this level,” said Asmussen.

Daddy Nose Best has now won 4 of 10 starts and $633,623. He is a son of Scat Daddy and he was bred in Kentucky by Patricia Ann Elia Trust.

Isn’t He Clever held second, 7 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Stirred Up. Isn’t He Clever earned $176,000 in graded money for his runner-up finish Sunday. He is not currently nominated to the Triple Crown.

The remaining order of finish was No Spin in fourth, followed by Ender Knievel, Tequila Factor, Castaway, and Justanoldsong.

Attendance on Sunday was 18,384. Handle on the 13-race card from all sources was $3,586,225, which set a new Sunland and New Mexico record for live handle. The previous mark of $2,963,240 was set on the corresponding card in 2011.