12/07/2011 5:37PM

Zia Park reports spike in handle


Zia Park in Hobbs, N.M., closed out its 50-date mixed meet for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses on Sunday with a double-digit increase in average daily handle on its live races. Patrons bet an average $397,076 a day on the track’s races from all sources, up 12 percent from the 53-date meet in 2010, according to figures provided by Rick Baugh, assistant general manager of Zia.

Baugh said overnight purses at the meet averaged $210,337 a day, up from $185,035 in 2010.

Henry Dominguez won the training title for the sixth time in the seven-year history of Zia, with 39 wins from 149 starters. His stable earnings of $1,063,319 set a record for a trainer. Dominguez’s lone title loss came in 2008, to Bart Hone.

Alejandro Medellin won the Zia riding title with 64 wins from 289 mounts. His starters earned $1,405,092.

J. Kirk Robison and Tom and Sandra McKenna of Judge Lanier Racing tied for the Thoroughbred owner title with eight wins each. Robison also won 10 other Thoroughbred races in various partnerships this meet at Zia.

Distance Championship winner at Sunland

McKenna’s Justice, whose win in Zia’s final race of the meet, the $200,000 Distance Championship, moved Judge Lanier Racing into a tie for first-place in the owner standings, is now based at Sunland Park. Trainer Justin Evans said the horse is getting a breather after his big score, and noted he has lots of upcoming options as a winner at both one turn and two.

“When he’s ready to run, we’ll hit some of these races,” Evans said of the stakes program at Sunland.

McKenna’s Justice, a 4-year-old by Medaglia d’Oro, won his first stakes in the Distance Championship when he edged Red Lead on the wire. For the effort, McKenna’s Justice earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 92.

“He’s always been a big, athletic kid, and really, he’s just starting to put it together,” Evans said. “I think there’s a lot of good things to come. He’s 4 coming 5, and is just starting to put it all together.”

The Distance Championship was the biggest career win for Evans, a 30-year-old who in July won the training title at SunRay Park in Farmington, N.M. Evans has a 30-horse stable at Sunland, which opened its meet Tuesday. Saturday, he will send out 121-pound highweight Pack Your Bags in the track’s first Thoroughbred stakes, the $50,000 KLAQ Handicap.

◗ The retired quarterback Joe Montana will be the featured guest at a charity gala the night before the Sunland Park Derby, said Harold Payne, the track’s general manager. The March 24 event is a fund-raiser for United Blood Services.