03/17/2011 11:52AM

Sunland: Key's Band will be hard to catch in Mt. Cristo Rey


Key’s Band has won multiple stakes in his career, and not all of them have been restricted to Thoroughbreds. He has defeated Quarter Horses more than once at 870-yards, and his brand of speed should serve him well Saturday when he defends his title in the $100,000 Mt. Cristo Rey Handicap at 4 1/2 furlongs at Sunland Park.

A full field of 10 has been entered, including Daddy O., who has won his last six races in a streak that began in December 2008.

Key’s Band ran one of the best races of his career in last year’s Mt. Cristo, when he led throughout for a neck win. For the effort, he earned a Beyer Figure of 91. Key’s Band came into the race off a season in which he had won a pair of 870-yard stakes during the second half of the year, one at Ruidoso Downs and another at Zia Park.

This year, Key’s Band will have to overcome a three-month layoff to win the Mt. Cristo. He has worked back-to-back bullets in preparation for his return, and is a horse who has had stakes success off the bench in the past.

Still, the competition is notable. In addition to Daddy O., who is making his first start since December, the field includes multiple sprint stakes winner Chuchuluco. He closed for fourth last out in the $50,000 Budweiser at five furlongs at Sunland and now moves back into the New Mexico-bred ranks. The last time Chuchuluco ran against such foes he won the $120,000 Johnie Jamison at Sunland in December.

Justin Shepherd will ride Chuchuluco for trainer Todd Fincher, while Martin Bourdieu has the mount on Key’s Band for trainer Andres Gonzalez. Gonzalez also trains Daddy O.