FARMINGTON — In what can already be described as a sensational start to the SunRay Park and Casino racing season, trainer Justin Evans is going right back to the star of his roster for an encore performance.
Rebranded, who closed out 2013 with a win in the Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland Park, will be looking to pad his resume with another stakes win when he goes to the gate as the 8-5 morning-line favorite in today's $35,000 SunRay Park and Casino Handicap at a distance of one mile.
Evans, by far the leading trainer at the current racing season, will once again team with Rebranded's regular rider Ry Eikleberry for Rebranded's second start over the track.
The Kentucky-bred son of Tiznow, owned by Tony Pennington, made short work of allowance rivals here just 11 days earlier, winning a seven furlong sprint by nearly seven lengths.
"He came out of the race perfect," Evans said Friday at SunRay Park. "He's acclimated well to his surroundings, so the thing now is just to keep him happy and keep moving forward with him."
With a plethora of 3-year-old races around the country being run in the coming months, Evans knows that Rebranded will have plenty of options past today's featured event.
"If he comes out of this in good order, we're considering the Affirmed Handicap at Santa Anita next time," Evans said. "The nice thing is that there are options for a horse like this."
Back over a route of ground again today, Rebranded will break from post No. 3 when he faces as many as six rivals, including two stablemates Lucky Coin and Alsono.
Alsono, a four-time winner from 10 career starts, also owned by Pennington, won the KHEY Sprint Stakes at Sunland Park in January, hasn't raced since finishing sixth in the Mine That Bird Derby, a prep for the $800,000 Sunland Derby, last February.
"(Alsono) is tough to get races for, because there aren't a lot of softer spots for him to run in," Evans said. "I think he'll do well in this spot since he's come back to train real nicely."
Alsono, a Kentucky-bred son of Limehouse, will break from post No. 4 and is scheduled to be ridden by Elvin Gonzalez, who has established himself as the leading rider on the grounds.
Lucky Coin is winless in two starts since breaking his maiden last October at Woodbine in Toronto. The Canadian-bred son of Bluegrass Cat will be ridden by Miguel Fuentes, Jr., and will break from post No. 2.
Post time for the SunRay Park and Casino Handicap, listed as the 8th race on the card, is slated for 4:04 p.m. on a very important day of racing across the country as SunRay will feature wagering on the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby.
The simulcast of the Derby will be held shortly after the running of the SunRay Park and Casino Handicap.