03/24/2013 6:44PM

Sunland: Isn't He Clever breaks track record winning Bill Thomas Memorial


Isn’t He Clever set a track record for 6 1/2  furlongs at Sunland Park on Sunday, when he won the $75,000 Bill Thomas Memorial in 1:13.45. He powered home by 5 3/4 lengths over Warren’s Knockout, to lower the mark of 1:13.95 that Happy Humor set on Feb. 15, 2009.

The Bill Thomas Memorial was one of seven stakes on the Sunland Derby Day card. Together the races were worth a cumulative $1.4 million. The program was the richest of the meet at Sunland Park, the New Mexico track located just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Isn’t He Clever ($5.40) was content to sit in fourth in the Bill Thomas, as Dollarwaitonadime dueled through an opening quarter in 22 seconds and a half-mile in 43.58. Isn’t He Clever angled off the rail on the turn, came four wide into the stretch, and roared down the middle of the track to be in command through six furlongs in 1:07.34. He proceeded to set the track record on a surface rated fast Sunday.

“I don’t think sprinting is even his best game, [but] he ran like it today,” said Kirk Robison, who owns Isn’t He Clever with his wife, Judy.

Luis Contreras was aboard for trainer Henry Dominguez. The start was the second of the year for Isn’t He Clever, who was given time off due to shin issues, said Kirk Robison. Isn’t He Clever, who was second in last year’s Sunland Derby, could move to two turns next, said Robison.

The Robisons, Dominguez, and Contreras also teamed to win the $85,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Oaks with Back Seat Roll. She rallied for a 1 1/4-length win over Tyger Teras. Back Seat Roll ($5.40) picked up her fourth career stakes win in the race, after covering 1 1/16 miles restricted to 3-year-old fillies bred in New Mexico in 1:43.78. 

African Rose wins Harry Henson

African Rose withstood a claim of foul to win in the $75,000 Harry Henson Handicap as the race’s 121-pound starting highweight. She won by two lengths over Pyrite on My Mind in the first of the seven stakes run Sunday.

African Rose tracked the pace in second in the one-mile Henson, with Notkiddingaround taking the field through fractions of 22.78 seconds for the opening quarter and 45.64 for the half-mile. African Rose took over through six furlongs in 1:09.89, drifted out towards the middle of the track in the stretch, then straightened up to win in 1:36.97.

An objection against the winner by jockey Ken Tohill, who rode Pyrite on My Mind, was disallowed and the order of finish remained unchanged. African Rose paid $6.80, with jockey Miguel Hernandez aboard for Sunland’s leading trainer, Justin Evans.

“I think that the filly, she was getting a little tired and wanted to drift out,” said Evans. “Thank God it didn’t interfere with [Pyrite On My Mind] and they kept us up.”

African Rose has now won 8 of 16 starts. She was winning for the third time at the Sunland meet in the Harry Henson, having also taken allowances on Jan. 20 and March 3. African Rose races for Judge Lanier Racing.

* Rose’s Desert ($3.20) won the $85,000 La Coneja for the second straight year, when she put in a powerful stretch bid to win the 5 1/2-furlong race for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares in 1:01.97. She won by 2 ¾ lengths, with Casey Lambert aboard for Joe Peacock and trainer Todd Fincher.

* Fincher sent out Hush’s Storm ($10.20) to a 1 ¼-length win over Storms Surprise in the $85,000 New Mexico Breeders’ Derby for 3-year-olds bred in New Mexico. The winner covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.18. Alfredo Juarez Jr. was aboard for the ownership of Dale Taylor, Joe Dee Brooks, Carey Taylor, and Jon Hogg.