In just ten runnings, the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) has sparked some major events in the world of Thoroughbred horse racing and rates as a prized jewel for Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino. Sunland Park’s biggest race was the springboard to greatness for Mine That Bird who went on to score a monumental 50-1 upset win in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and place in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. A major motion picture entitled “50-1” has been filmed to chronicle the Mine That Bird underdog story. 2005 winner Thor’s Echo was a bright light for Sunland Park in 2006 when the Doug O’Neill trained speed merchant won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and the Eclipse Award that year for top sprinter.
In 2012, Sunland Derby (Gr. III) day sparked record handle and attendance figures. An all-sources handle of nearly $3.6 million wagered on the 13-race card, besting the former Sunland record by over a half million dollars. The handle was the most ever bet in one card in New Mexico racing history. Also, an all-time Sunland Park record crowd of 18,384 fans came out for the big day.
With 85 total qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby on the line, this year’s $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) appears to be a crucial part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby.” The 2013 winner of the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) earns 50 qualifying points and a virtual berth in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. Even the runner-up will receive an important 20 points, followed by 10 for third and 5 for fourth place. Interest in the Sunland classic has been keen from coast to coast.