06/22/2012 1:57PM

Sunland Park: Borderland Derby renamed the Mine That Bird for upcoming meet

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The Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby is the centerpiece of the Sunland Park stakes schedule that was approved Thursday by the New Mexico Racing Commission. The panel also granted the track a 76-date mixed meet for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses that will open Dec. 7 and run through April 16, 2013.

The Sunland Derby, at a mile and an eighth March 24, is again the richest of the 32 Thoroughbred stakes to be run during the meet. It will anchor a program of seven stakes worth a cumulative $1.4 million. Aside from the Sunland Derby – which under the new Kentucky Derby qualifying system is worth 50 points to the winner – the card also features the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks. A win in the Oaks, at a mile and a sixteenth, is worth 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.

The Borderland Derby, which is the local prep for the Sunland Derby, has been renamed the Mine That Bird Derby, said Dustin Dix, director of racing for Sunland. The $130,000 Mine That Bird, named for the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner who prepped at Sunland, is at a mile and a sixteenth Feb. 23. The track has also renamed the Sydney Valentini the Peppers Pride as a nod to the New Mexico-bred mare who won all 19 of her starts. The $100,000 race for statebred fillies and mares at a mile is Feb. 16.

In other changes, Sunland has hired Robert Junk as racing secretary, said Dix. Junk is the current racing secretary at Ruidoso and has served in the same capacity at Zia and tracks in Arizona.

Sunland stall applications are due Sept. 23; the stable area opens Nov. 12.