FARMINGTON — With the 2015 Sunray Park and Casino racing season approaching the final three weeks, we have a couple very compelling battles happening among riders and trainers.
Sitting comfortably atop the leaderboard for thoroughbred trainers is Justin Evans. It is familiar territory for Evans, who has been enjoying another solid year. He has saddled 21 winners this season, well ahead of second-place Henry Dominguez, who has trained 12 winners this season.
The fight for the top thoroughbred jockey on the other hand, is far from resolved.
Frank Reyes, Alfredo Juarez Jr. and Enrique Gomez are currently waging a strong battle for the meet's leading man.
Reyes, with 21 winners as of today, is one ahead of Juarez and three ahead of Gomez.
All three riders have strong cases for being the leading thoroughbred rider.
Gomez is the go-to man for Dominguez, while both Reyes and Juarez have been winning races for Evans.
Reyes may have the advantage in the final weeks of the season. He has also ridden winners for several other trainers, making him a hot commodity on the backstretch.
The leaderboard in the quarter horse division is equally crowded.
Martin Bourdieu and Jose Enriquez appear to be the front-runners for the title of top quarter horse jockey. Bourdieu, one of the top shortline riders in the region for several years, is looking to add another Sunray title to his collection.
Enriquez isn't going anywhere and rides for a number of top barns, which means this jockey's race has a long way to go.
Trainer Ken Grisham, who sent out Good Job Honey to a win last Sunday in the $100,000 Four Corners Futurity, is the current leader atop quarter horse trainers, leading Wes Giles by the narrowest of margins.
Grisham's seven wins this season have him one ahead of Giles. Arturo Chavez, with five winners, and Oscar Carrete with four, all have a reasonable look at the title.
On tap today
A field of eight state-bred 3-year-olds will go postward in the $50,000 Diné Stakes, the featured eighth race on a nine-race card with a first post time of 1:30 p.m.
Jockey Enrique Gomez will ride the 3-to-1 morning-line favorite Gator Heat for trainer Henry Dominguez. The son of Southwestern Heat was burned up dueling for the early lead before finishing sixth last time out in the Road Runner Handicap on July 26 at Ruidoso Downs.
Drawn in post 5 in the Diné, Gator Heat will likely be sent along on the front end while making her first start at 6 1-2 furlongs.
If the pace comes up quick, the one to beat in the stretch may well be Atillas Gift, who hasn't been in the winner's circle since his upset score in the Albuquerque Journal Stakes last May at the Downs at Albuquerque. Trained by Lauren Fincher and scheduled to be ridden by Juarez, the son of Attila's Storm has since lost three straight.
Atillas Gift will break from post 7 in the Dine, which has a scheduled post time of 4:18 p.m.
Plays of the day
Each day during the current racing season, Sunray Park track announcer Eric Alwan and paddock show host Steve Bortstein offer their best bets for that day's program.
Alwan's best bet is in the eighth race, where he likes No. 2 Golly Gee, who will be finishing fast behind a rapid pace under jockey Casey Lambert.
Bortstein's best bet is in today's fourth race, where he likes No. 4 Yodelin' Angel, who's looking for her third straight win while stretched out to what may be her best distance.
Steve Bortstein hosts "First Sports" and "The Fast Track" on Fox Sports 1340 AM and 93.9 FM and on iHeartRadio. He serves as paddock show host at SunRay Park & Casino and is a voting member of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Follow him @fox1340am on Twitter.