02/25/2012 9:23PM

Sunland Park: Isn’t He Clever uses stalking trip to win Borderland Derby

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Isn’t He Clever rolled out new tactics Saturday for the $150,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park, and after rallying for a 1 3/4-length win over favorite Zackn’mat, his connections said he would target next month’s Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby. Major Hope finished third in the Borderland Derby, 10 lengths behind Zackn’mat.

Isn’t He Clever came into the Borderland off a pacesetting, fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis at Santa Anita on Feb. 4. But on Saturday, he was content to sit in third under jockey Alejandro Medellin as So Far So Fast and Tequila Factor raced through fractions of 24.05 for the opening quarter, 47.90 for the half-mile, and 1:12.08 for six furlongs. Isn’t He Clever ($5) advanced three wide approaching the quarter pole, took the lead into the stretch, and went on to cover the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better trip,” said Henry Dominguez, who trains Isn’t He Clever for Kirk and Judy Robison.

Dominguez was hopeful Isn’t He Clever would be more settled Saturday than he was in the Lewis. He adjusted the horse’s blinkers for the Borderland, fitting him with a smaller, French-cup set of blinkers after Isn’t He Clever ran in three-quarter-cup blinkers in the Lewis.

Dominguez also noted the horse had less time between starts heading into the Borderland, after running in the Lewis fresh, off a five-week gap following his 11-length win in the $100,000 Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland on Dec. 30.

Kirk Robison said the horse’s record at Sunland is one reason to keep him in New Mexico for the Sunland Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race to be run March 25. Isn’t He Clever, a son of Smarty Jones, has now won 4 of 6 starts and $215,960.