10/13/2005 11:00PM

WinStar Derby purse boosted to $600K


The purse for Sunland Park's richest race, the WinStar Derby, has been increased to $600,000 for its fourth running on April 1. Last year, the 1 1/8-mile race was worth $500,000. The purse boost is one of the most notable changes to Sunland's stakes schedule, which comprises 51 races for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses at the New Mexico track, located near El Paso, Texas.

Sunland will open its 79-date mixed meet a month later than last year, on Dec. 2, with the new Zia Park in Hobbs, N.M., set to close its inaugural season Dec. 4. Sunland's season will continue about two weeks longer than last year, ending on April 16.

Purses at the slots-rich Sunland will average more than $210,000 a day, and the minimum purse for stakes at the track will be $50,000.

The WinStar Derby will again share a program with the $250,000 WinStar Sunland Park Oaks at 1 1/16 miles. The other stakes that day, the richest card of the meet, will be the $100,000 Harry W. Henson Handicap for fillies and mares at one mile, and the $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Derby.

The local prep for the WinStar Derby is the $100,000 Borderland Derby at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 26, while the inaugural $50,000 Island Fashion, for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on March 11, should produce starters for the WinStar Oaks. Island Fashion, a multiple Grade 1 winner, won her maiden in the first running of the Oaks in 2003.

Other races of interest for Thoroughbreds include the $175,000 Riley Allison Futurity at 6 1/2 furlongs on Dec. 31. The richest Quarter Horse race of the meet is the $400,000 Championship at Sunland, a Grade 1 race at 400 yards. It will be run on Dec. 30, and be telecast on ESPN.

Sunland will race on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Tuesdays for most of the meet, with a full card of Thoroughbred racing on Tuesdays.