FARMINGTON — If the Justin Evans-trained Dirt Monster is going to turn into a beast, today's $35,000 SunRay Park and Casino Handicap might be the place for that beast to be unleashed.
Listed as the 2-to-1 morning line favorite, and expected to be sent off at much shorter odds when the race goes off this afternoon, Dirt Monster is a four-time winner from 11 career starts. However he still appears to be lacking that signature win.
The Kentucky-bred son of Line of David has earned minor awards in all but one stakes race in his career, an emphatic win last May 16 at Albuquerque in the Duke City Sprint. Otherwise, he's been content with third place finishes in the Charles Taylor Derby on June 6 at Albuquerque, and before that, the Mine That Bird and Riley Allison Derbies earlier this year at Sunland Park.
In fact, Dirt Monster's worst career outing came when he was beaten over 22 lengths in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby by Firing Line, who would go on to run second in the Kentucky Derby behind eventual Triple Crown conqueror American Pharoah.
For all intents and purposes, Dirt Monster should make short work of his five rivals in today's one-mile event for three-year-olds. He comes off a sharp win over the course here on July 28, gets the services of this season's leading thoroughbred rider in Alfredo Juarez Jr., and has come back to work well since the last race.
There are, undoubtedly bigger plans down the line for Dirt Monster.
"I really think he's going to be a good late-running sprinter," Evans said Monday afternoon. "The only problem (today) might be the distance, but the tighter turns (at SunRay) should give him an advantage."
Evans cited the Premiere Cup at Zia Park on Sept. 13 as a possible next spot for Dirt Monster.
"If he comes out of the race good enough, we might look at that race," Evans said. "He's got a good late kick and the shorter distances might suit him best."
The SunRay Park and Casino Handicap will go as the eighth of a nine-race card today with a scheduled post time of 4:18 p.m.
In addition to the featured race, there is also a $1,523 carryover pool in the Super High Five Jackpot, which will go off in the ninth and final race of the day.
The Super High Five is a minimum 50-cent wager in which you are required to select the top five finishers in a given race.
The ninth race on today's card features New Mexico-bred maiden claimers. The wide open nature of the race should offer horseplayers some different opportunities, as well as a sizable pool in wagering locally and across the country.
PLAYS OF THE DAY
Each day during the current racing season at SunRay Park and Casino, track announcer Eric Alwan and paddock show host Steve Bortstein offer their best bets for that day's card.
Alwan's best bet today comes in the third race, where he likes No. 4 Lady Shazzam, who is turning back a bit in distance and looking to end a four-race skid.
Bortstein's best bet comes in the same race, where he likes No. 2 Ten Purses, who showed speed and flattened out in her most recent start off a brief layoff. She figures to be a bit fresher today for top-flight connections.
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.