New Mexico-bred stars highlight weekend racing at SunRay Park

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — In addition to being able to watch and wager on Saturday's Kentucky Derby, fans at SunRay Park and Casino will be able to see some of the top older New Mexico-bred thoroughbreds square off in the $100,000 Jack Cole Handicap.

On Sunday, 2-year-olds take center stage in the C.O. Ken Kendrick Memorial Stakes, to be run at 4 1/2 furlongs.

Here's a look at this weekend's upcoming stakes action at SunRay Park and Casino.

Cheese Tray seeks second stakes win in a row

J. Kirk and Judy Robison's Cheese Tray will be looking to add a second consecutive stakes victory to his impressive resume when he loads into the starting gate as the morning line favorite in Saturday's $100,000 Jack Cole Handicap at SunRay Park and Casino.

The 4-year-old New Mexico-bred son of Attila's Storm as finished no worse than third in each of his last nine starts dating back to June 25, 2021, and comes into the Cole Handicap off a hard-fought victory in the New Mexico State University Handicap on March 27 at Sunland Park.

Trained by Leroy Fincher and scheduled to be ridden by Alfredo Juarez, Jr., Cheese Tray is one of 12 older thoroughbreds entered in the Cole Handicap, which will be run at approximately 4:12 p.m. on a 10-race card that has an early first post time of 1 p.m. to accommodate simulcast wagering on the Kentucky Derby.

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Cheese Tray has earned more than $204,000 while winning four times from 16 career starts. This will be only the second start over the course for Cheese Tray, who ran fourth in last year's Diné Stakes, one of only two races in his career in which he finished worse than third.

Sea Emperor (white blinkers) edges Jet N G in the Albert & Henry Dominguez Memorial Handicap, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022 at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.

Listed as the 5-to-2 morning line favorite, Cheese Tray will break from post three in the Cole Handicap, which will be run at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Jet N G, trained by Gary Cross, will be looking to avenge a pair of tough losses when he breaks from the rail in the Cole Handicap under jockey Jorge Carreno.

The 7-year-old son of Mr. Trieste was beaten a neck by Sea Emperor in the Albert and Henry Dominguez Memorial Handicap at Sunland Park on Feb. 27, then was beaten by three-quarters of a length by Cheese Tray in the NMSU Handicap.

Owned by Maurcenia Cross, Jet N G has bankrolled more than $374,000 while winning seven times from 38 career starts. He also will be looking for his first win from four starts at SunRay Park and Casino and has been installed as the 7-to-2 second choice in the Cole Handicap.

No Pasa Nada was a winner in most recent start here last time out for trainer Aurelio Valdez. The son of Attila's Storm has won twice at SunRay Park, but will be facing tougher company in the Cole Handicap.

Drawn in post eight, No Pasa Nada has been installed at 8-to-1 on the morning line and will be piloted by his regular rider Alejandro Medellin.

For more information on the Cole Handicap, check out the official entries and more at

Better Believe looks strong in Kendrick Memorial

A field of seven New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds are expected to go postward in Sunday's $100,000 C.O. Ken Kendrick Memorial Stakes, led by impressive maiden winner Better Believe.

The daughter of Marking was an strong winner in her career debut at Sunland Park on April 2, winning by a length under a steady drive.

Owned by R. Lee Lewis and Fred King, Better Believe is trained by Leroy Fincher and will break from post three in the Kendrick Stakes, which will go as the eighth race on the 10-race card and has a scheduled post time of 5:03 p.m.

Her sire was runner up in the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (Gr. III) in 2016 and retired with career earnings of more than $426,000.

Better Believe will be ridden by Alfredo Juarez, Jr., in the Kendrick Memorial Stakes and is one of two starters in the race for Fincher, including New Cut Road, who will be making his career debut in the 4 1/2 furlong sprint.

For more information on the Kendrick Memorial Stakes, check out the entries and more on the official page at 

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.