SUNLAND PARK — There might not be a more dominant angle in the sport of horse racing in New Mexico from a wagering perspective than to simply bet on any race Isn't He Clever runs in during a racetrack's closing weekend.
In 2012, on the closing day of Ruidoso's live racing season, the son of Smarty Jones won the Ruidoso Thoroughbred Derby by more than 13 lengths.
Last year, on the final day of the SunRay Park and Casino racing season, Isn't He Clever romped by nearly 17 lengths to win the San Juan County Commissioner's Handicap.
Sunday, on the second to last day of the 2014 racing season at Sunland Park, Isn't He Clever turned in one of his best efforts in his 19-race career, teaming with rider Enrique Gomez for a dominant score in the $75,000 Sunland Park Handicap.
Ridden perfectly by Gomez, who opted to let the Kentucky-bred gelding rate behind a moderate pace set by Az Ridge and Spensive's Image through an opening half-mile of 47.75 seconds, Gomez wheeled Isn't He Clever to the outside of those two on the far turn, grabbed the lead at the head of the lane and quickly opened up on the competition.
"That's the key to him", said winning trainer Henry Dominguez. "He tried to get him to rate behind those speed horses and get him to relax. He just ran an awesome race."
Once Isn't He Clever assumed command, the only formality was the winning margin, officially given as nine and a half lengths, while running the one and one-eighth miles in a near track-record time of 1:47.95, just two-fifths of a second off the course record set by Govenor Charlie when he won the Sunland Park Derby last year.
The win is the ninth career score for Isn't He Clever, owned by the powerful barn of J. Kirk and Judy Robison. The winner's share of the purse puts Isn't He Clever's lifetime earnings at over $616,000. Sent off as the 11-to-10 favorite, Isn't He Clever made the $4.20 return on investment seem like easy money.
Dry Summer crossed the line second, followed by Ol Winedrinker Who, Jaycito, Az Ridge, Red Lead and Spensive's Image.
The win is the second in three starts this year for Isn't He Clever, who returned from a long layoff on March 4 to beat allowance competition before having to settle for third last time out in the Bill Thomas Memorial Handicap on March 23.
It's likely that local racing fans will get at least one chance to see Isn't He Clever during the upcoming live season at SunRay Park, which celebrates its opening day of the 2014 season on Friday.
Co-owner Kirk Robison indicated after the race that the plan was to keep Isn't He Clever in the state of New Mexico for the time being, which may very well mean a chance to defend his title in the traditional closing day San Juan County Commissioners Handicap later this June.
Boi George doesn't miss winners circle
Earlier in the day, it was the longshot Boi George who scored a big win in the $267,000 West Texas Quarter Horse Futurity for trainer Gene Burden and jockey Adrian Ramos.
Bred in the state of Texas by Jack Manning and owned by Miguel and Mauricio Gallegos, Boi George validated his debut trial race victory on March 21 with an emphatic half-length victory over El Damazo who closed well to nab the place in the 300 yard dash.
Breaking from the outside post in the 10-horse field for the Futurity, Boi George, a son of Teller Cartel was always prominent while racing way out past the middle of the racetrack. The final time for the 300 yards was a very quick 14.87 seconds, just three-tenths of a second off the course record set by Valiant War Hero in 2011.
Sent off at odds of 16.10-to-1, Boi George returned $34.20 to his supporters. Behind El Damazo for the place spot were Aka Bugga, JM Famous Master, CC Kachina Eagle, Whos Kissin James, First Famous Effort, Encore For James, Bigtime Bye and Phenomenal Jess.
It was an unlucky start for the post time favorite First Famous Effort, who did get roughed up a bit when the gates opened, essentially costing that one any chance of a victory for trainer John Stinebaugh and jockey Omar Reyes.
The win is worth nearly $126,000 for the connections of Boi George, who is now 2-for-2 in his young career and now becomes one of the likely contenders for the $700,000 Ruidoso Futurity, which will have its trial race dates on May 22 at Ruidoso Downs.