Bold Ego Handicap kicks off big weekend

Steve Bortstein
Special to The Daily Times

SUNLAND PARK -- A pair of racing cancellations at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino undoubtedly affected schedules of both equines and their human connections.

Belleofthebeach, shown here ridden by Alfredo Juarez Jr., on her way to an impressive score in the Oct. 5 Chaves County Stakes at Zia Park.

After a massive snowstorm forced racing to be halted last Sunday, and poor racing and track conditions prevented Sunland from completing their program the following day, it appears as if both weather and the racetrack will cooperate this weekend, with expected high temperatures in the low to mid-50’s.

Conditions are also very much in order for a competitive edition of today’s $65,000 Bold Ego Handicap, the ninth and featured race on a strong program that serves as the appetizer for a huge weekend. Sunday's stakes-loaded program will highlight the weekend, as more than three-quarters of a million dollars in stakes purses will be doled out.

Teed Off Stable’s Belleofthebeach has been established as the 3-to-1 morning line favorite for the Bold Ego, which is run at 5 1-2 furlongs for older fillies and mares.

Trained by Justin Evans, Belleofthebeach is an eight-time winner from 21 career starts with more than $273,000 in lifetime earnings. A multiple stakes winner, she is the defending champion in this race, having captured a stirring edition last year over African Rose, who will once again be one of her main rivals.

A Kentucky-bred filly by Master Command, Belleofthebeach will attempt to get back in winning form after a fourth-place finish in the Zia Park Distaff on Nov. 25, a race impressively won by Thirteen Arrows.

Thirteen Arrows parlayed that win into a splashy stakes win over a muddy track at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Dec. 26 in the Pan Zareta Stakes.

Prior to the Zia Park Distaff, Belleofthebeach won back-to-back races at Zia, including the Chaves County Stakes on Oct. 5.

Scheduled to be ridden once again by Alfredo Juarez Jr., Belleofthebeach will break from post 3 in the nine-horse Bold Ego Handicap, which has a post time listed at 4:10 p.m.

African Rose, the second choice on the morning line at odds of 4-to-1, is looking to end a three-race losing streak for trainer Miguel Hernandez. By far the most accomplished runner in the field, the seven-year-old Florida-bred mare by Bwana Charlie has earned more than $482,000 while winning 16 times from 39 starts.

The bulk of African Rose’s victories have come at Sunland, where she is a nine-time winner from 18 starts, including a stakes score last year in the Harry Henson Stakes.

African Rose will break from post 6 with Enrique Gomez scheduled to ride.

Kentucky invader Chanteline may be an intriguing prospect in the Bold Ego, coming off a seven-length allowance victory on Oct. 30 at Keeneland in Lexington.

Chanteline will be making her first start in New Mexico, but has been well-traveled in her seven-race career, with her only other career win at the Fair Grounds. She also has races at Remington Park in Oklahoma City as well as Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.

A four-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by Majesticperfection, Chanteline will be facing stakes company for the first time in her career.

Trained by Steve Asmussen for Ten Broeck Farm, Inc., Chanteline will be ridden by Glen Murphy, breaking from the far outside post at 9-to-2 on the morning line.

Sunday’s program will be highlighted by four stakes races, including the $350,000 Championship at Sunland, as well as the $250,000 Winter Championship as well as the $85,000 Lou Wooten & Sydney Valentini Handicap. All of those races were redrawn after being canceled last weekend.

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.