Pair of stakes winners take center stage this weekend at SunRay Park

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Weekend stakes races at SunRay Park and Casino will be highlighted by older thoroughbreds sprinting 4 1/2 furlongs in the $75,000 SunRay Park Stakes on Saturday, followed by older quarter horses sprinting 400 yards in the $100,000 Jimmy Drake Stakes on Sunday.

Here's a glance at some of the top contenders in each of this weekend's stakes races.

Hollywood Henry seeks second win in a row in SunRay Park Stakes

Bennie Vanecek's Hollywood Henry is likely to be the post-time favorite when he reaches the starting gate against nine rivals in the $75,000 SunRay Park Stakes, the featured event on Saturday's 10-race program that gets underway at 2:15 p.m.

Trained by Fred Danley and coming off a win in his most recent start in the $100,000 Mt. Cristo Rey Handicap at Sunland Park, Hollywood Henry is a New Mexico-bred son of Roll Hennessy Roll with earnings topping $434,000. A 12-time winner from 36 career starts, Hollywood Henry will be piloted once again by Alfredo Juarez, Jr. in the 4 1/2 furlong stakes.

The most recent win in the Mt. Cristo Rey snapped a four-race losing streak for Hollywood Henry, who also owns victories at Ruidoso Downs, the Downs at Albuquerque and Zia Park. He has yet to enter the winners' circle in two prior efforts at SunRay Park and Casino.

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Drawn in post six for the SunRay Park Stakes, which has a scheduled post time of 5:27 p.m., Hollywood Henry is the 5-to-2 morning line favorite. 

Among the many challengers to Hollywood Henry will be Competitive Idea, coming off an eighth-place finish in the Inaugural Handicap, held at SunRay last month on the opening day of the current season.

Prior to that effort, the Kentucky-bred son of Competitive Edge was third in the Ft. Bliss Stakes at Sunland Park on Jan. 29 after winning two stakes races in a row, including the KLAQ Handicap on Jan. 1 at Sunland Park as well as the Zia Park Sprint Stakes on Nov. 23, 2021.

Owned by The Luxury Group Racing LLC and Mike Luciano, Competitive Idea has four wins from 19 career starts and has earned nearly $190,000 in his career. Trained by this season's current leading thoroughbred conditioner James Cappellucci, Competitive Idea will break from post eight under Enrique Gomez and has been installed at 8-to-1 on the morning line.

Ize A Crafty Gal, shown here under jockey Daniel Aguilar, scores a convincing win in the Pete Selin Stakes at Rillito Park on March 5, 2022.

A handful of Arizona invaders, including Ize A Crafty Gal and J T's La Nena are also entered in the SunRay Park Stakes.

Owned and trained by Alvaro Hinojos, Ize A Crafty Gal is a seven-time winner who finished fourth in his most recent start at the Cochise County Fair in Douglas, Arizona. The 7-year-old mare has raced previously at SunRay Park, with two wins and two second place efforts from four starts. She drew the rail and is listed at 20-to-1 on the morning line with Aldo Arboleda aboard.

J T's La Nena is a 4-year-old filly owned by Juan Cesar Torres-Casas and trained by Candelario Villamar, boasting four wins from 23 starts and having finished second in her most recent start at Turf Paradise. Scheduled to be ridden by Alejando Medellin, J T's La Nena drew post four and is the third choice on the morning line at 4-to-1.

Earlier races:New Mexico-bred thoroughbreds highlight weekend stakes winners at SunRay Park and Casino

Bigg Dee looms large in Jimmy Drake Stakes

Rex Wells' Bigg Dee, a nine-time winner and earner of more than $427,000, appears to be the horse to beat in the $100,000 Jimmy Drake Stakes, the main event of Sunday's 10-race card at SunRay Park and Casino.

Trained by James J. Gonzalez, III, the 4-year-old New Mexico-bred son of Big Daddy Cartel scored an impressive half-length victory last time out in the $100,000 Mesilla Valley Speed Handicap on Feb. 12 at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.

That win came off the heels of back-to-back third place finishes behind Colby James in the $100,000 Red or Green Stakes and the $100,000 Dona Ana County Stakes earlier in the season.

Jockey Mario Delgado gives a look across the track as he crosses the finish line ahead of his rivals aboard Bigg Dee in the Mesilla Valley Speed Handicap, Feb. 12, 2022 at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.

Bigg Dee had a formidable campaign last year, winning nine times from 18 starts, including wins in the New Mexico State Fair Derby at Albuquerque Downs as well as the Zia Derby at Ruidoso Downs. 

Drawn in post four in the overflow field of 12, Bigg Dee will again be ridden by Mario Delgado and will likely be a short price when the field arrives at the starting gate for the 400-yard Drake Stakes, which will go as the fourth race on the card and has a scheduled post time of 3:27 p.m.

Cowboy Zulu may be the horse to beat in the Drake, coming off a bad-luck 10th place finish in the New Mexico Horse Breeders Association Stakes on March 22 at Sunland Park. Trained by Fred Danley, the son of Zulu Dragon stumbled badly out of the gate and lost all chance.

Prior to that, Cowboy Zulu had four wins from 10 starts and earnings topping $107,000 for owners Danley and Chuck Sonnenberg. With Randy Vega set to ride, Cowboy Zulu will break from post seven in the Drake Stakes.

For more information about the racing at SunRay Park and Casino, check out their official page on Equibase.com

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