New Mexico-bred sensation Hustle Up scored a wire to wire win in the 19th running of the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby on Sunday at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino on Sunday.
Under a cool ride from Shane Laviolette, Hustle Up was able to control the pace and made every pole a winning one. The three-year-old son of Abstraction used his tactical speed to hold clear over a fast closing Wicked Indeed and win the last local prep for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) by one length.
The front running expert timed the one mile and one-sixteenth distance in a good 1:42.31. The 2018 Copper Top Futurity and 2019 Red Hedeman Mile winner served notice with a polished performance and remains unbeaten over Sunland Park soil in four outings. His career record stands at 8 wins from 10 starts.
The Todd Fincher trained dynamo could have a substantial impact in the Sunland Derby (Gr. III) to be run on Sunday, March 24. Hustle Up earned $60,000 for owner Dale Taylor, Bobby McQueen and Suzanne Kirby. The perfect Sunland runner paid $7.00 to win as the second favorite at 5-2 odds.
4-5 favorite Wicked Indeed was 5-wide on the far turn and tried his best under leading rider Luis Contreras. The gray roan Tapit colt closed too late and had to settle for second place. Steve Asmussen trains for the Winchell Thoroughbreds. The runner-up earned $20,000.
Walker Stalker finished 4 lengths behind the winner in third place. The former maiden winner from the barn of Jose R. Gonzalez, Jr. mounted a serious charge coming off the far turn.
2018 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) winner Runaway Ghost demolished a strong field en route to a convincing 1 and 1/2 length win in the 19th running of the $75,000 Curribot Handicap. One of Sunland Park's greatest all time horses was bet down to 1-9 odds in the 1 and 1/16 mile feature for older horses, and he ran accordingly.
Under jockey Santiago Gonzalez, Runaway Ghost took dead aim on the pace setting American Dubai at the quarter pole. The big favorite swept on by to take the lead for good by mid-stretch and finished full of run at the wire. He was timed in a fast 1:41.44, just missing the track record held by Rebranded of 1:40.64 in 2015. Runaway Ghost came off a near year layoff to win the $75,000 Ft. Bliss Stakes on Feb. 2. The four-year-old Ghostzapper colt has now won 5 stakes races in his brilliant career. He owns 6 career wins from 9 starts. Four of those wins have come at Sunland Park.
Todd Fincher trains the home-bred for owner Joe Peacock. Runaway Ghost earned $45,000 on Sunday, pushing his lifetime earnings past $653,000.
2017 Sunland Park Handicap winner American Dubai put up a great fight and ran a gallant second after pushing the pace. Winsham Lad Handicap winner Raagheb finished third, a half-length in front of Pendleton.
Trainer Todd Fincher enjoyed a huge afternoon winning three races including Wedding Dance (1st race), Runaway Ghost (7th race) and Hustle Up (9th race). Those wins pushed Fincher to a career milestone of 1,000 Thoroughbred training wins.
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