08/10/2011 1:46PM

Sunland: New sprint stakes added to derby undercard


The Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Park Derby, which has now produced two Classic winners with Ruler On Ice’s score in this year’s Belmont Stakes, will once again highlight the stakes schedule at the New Mexico track that opens Dec. 6.

Sunland will operate a mixed meet for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. The season will run for 77 days, through April 17, 2012.

The Sunland Park Derby struck gold in 2009, when the race’s fourth-place finisher, Mine That Bird, returned one start later to win the Kentucky Derby. This year, Ruler On Ice finished third to Twice the Appeal in the Sunland Derby and two starts later won the Belmont Stakes.

The Sunland Derby, at a mile and an eighth, will be renewed on March 25, 2012. It is one of 32 stakes for Thoroughbreds at the slots-rich meet and it anchors an expanded card of seven stakes worth more than $1.5 million. The program is the richest of the meet and it will include the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks at a mile and a sixteenth. Plum Pretty won the race by 25 lengths this year, then one start later accounted for the Kentucky Oaks.

The new stakes on the Sunland Derby undercard is the $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial for 3-year-olds and up, and will be run over 6 1/2 furlongs. Other races on the program include the $100,000 Harry Henson for fillies and mares at a mile and three stakes restricted to horses bred in New Mexico.

In other changes, the purse for the Borderland Derby has been boosted from $100,000 to $150,000. To be run at a mile and a sixteenth on Feb. 25, 2012, the Borderland is the local prep for the Sunland Derby.

The chief offering for Quarter Horses is the Grade 1, $350,000 Championship for 3-year-olds an up at 400 yards Dec. 31.

Sunland will open its stable area on Nov. 14.