Eikleberry, ‘Bikini put on a show at Sunland
SUNLAND PARK — Jockey Ry Eikleberry is giving every indication that he’s once again ready to dominate the thoroughbred riding colony at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.
Weaving his way through traffic aboard My Bikini Fell Off, Eikleberry won his second stakes race of the opening weekend, grudgingly getting past Hurricane Hush and winning Sunday's $85,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap.
Eikleberry, who last season dominated the standings with 86 wins, once again showed his affinity for riding this course. He patiently weaved My Bikini Fell Off between horses on the far turn and swung to the far outside at the top of the stretch before getting the lead near the shadow of the wire.
Owned and bred by Brian Mundell, My Bikini Fell Off is a state-bred, four-year-old filly by Elusive Jazz and trained by Bart Hone. She picked up her second career stakes win while running 6 furlongs in one minute, 11.06 seconds. She was sent off at odds of 4.60-to-1.
My Bikini Fell Off earned her sixth win from 14 career starts, padding her lifetime bankroll to nearly $220,000. She closes out the year having never finished worse than third in nine starts.
“She’s just a real professional racehorse,” Hone said about the winner. “An absolute pleasure having her in the barn.”
Backers of My Bikini Fell Off were rewarded with an $11.20 return on their $2 investment.
Hurricane Hush was unlucky to lose. The Jonathan Lemons trainee took over the lead after battling on the front end to the top of the lane under Frank Reyes, but settled for second ahead of My Dandy Girl.
Thermal takes Jamison Handicap
Thermal won for the first time in over a year on Sunday when he took the lead under Alfredo Juarez Jr., at the head of the lane before drawing off to an easy win in the $85,000 Johnie L Jamison Handicap. His win snaps a four-race losing streak.
Thermal raced close to a moderate pace down the backstretch, then drew up alongside co-leaders Song Of Laura and Shining Source around the far turn before taking command as the field straightened for the run to the wire.
Trained by Todd Fincher for owner R.D. Hubbard,Thermal, Thermal is a New Mexico-bred, five-year-old son of Attila’s Storm. His three previous starts this year had resulted in troubled trips, earning only minor awards. Sunday was his first win in 2015, and his last since Nov. 18, 2014.
“He’d had nothing but bad luck in his last few races,” Fincher said after the race. “We always knew he had that kind of race in him. Today, we got the perfect trip he took it from there.”
Thermal had plenty of support at the windows, and bet down from 5-to-1 on the morning line before going off at odds of 3-to-1. He returned $8 to his winning backers.
In winning for the eighth time from 27 starts, Thermal ran the 6 1-2 furlongs in a final time of 1:16.23. The winner’s share of the purse pads his career earnings to over $400,000.
Shining Source wound up holding second under jockey Elvin Gonzalez, ahead of Song Of Laura.
Live racing at Sunland resumes on Tuesday, with weekend highlights including a stakes triple-header on Sunday. The headliner will be the $600,000-added championship at Sunland for older quarter horses, featuring last year's world champion older quarter horse Jrc Callas First, as well as the $85,000 La Senora Stakes for two-year-old thoroughbreds on Saturday.
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.