SUNLAND PARK — Six of the first seven finishers in the Albert Dominguez Memorial Handicap in January will square off today in the New Mexico State University Handicap, the featured event of today's nine-race program at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.
Rising Giant, the winner of January's contest, has been installed as the 4-to-1 second choice on the morning line, with runner-up Streaks Bro listed as the early favorite. He's coming off a recent second-place finish in the Curribot Stakes last month.
Song Of Laura, who finished third as the mild post-time betting favorite in the Dominguez, is the 5-to-1 third choice on the morning line, while E Bar Way, Vic Tories and Cross Chris Run are also scheduled to meet again in the $85,000 event for older New Mexico-bred thoroughbreds racing a mile and 70 yards.
The 11-horse field in the NMSU Handicap has combined for 50 lifetime wins, topping earnings of $1.72 million, which makes the handicapping puzzle in the race even more difficult.
Trainer Joel Marr brings a strong contingent into the race, saddling five runners, including recent allowance winner Desert Mystery. At 12-to-1 on the morning line, Desert Mystery will likely be coming from off the pace under one of the meet’s leading thoroughbred riders Alfredo Juarez Jr.
Rising Giant, a nine-time winner from 31 career starts, earned his first stakes win in the Dominguez last time out. Trained by Simon Buechler for Judge Lanier Racing, Rising Giant was claimed from trainer Justin Evans last November for $10,000. Enrique Gomez, who rode the son of The Way Home to victory in the Dominguez, once again will be the pilot from post two in the NMSU Handicap.
The pacesetter in the NMSU Handicap will likely be Song Of Laura, much like he was in the Dominguez Handicap under jockey Glen Murphy.
The son of Song Of Navarone, owned by Farmington’s Barbara Coleman and trained by Todd Fincher, was only beaten three-quarters of a length when third in the Dominguez. He will break from post position six in the NMSU, and will be looking to earn his first win since beating allowance rivals in a six-furlong sprint last September at Zia Park.
The NMSU Handicap is the first of eight thoroughbred stakes being run this weekend as part of Sunland Park’s Fiesta Del Sol celebration. Sunday’s highlight races include the $415,000 Festival of Racing Stakes and the $200,000 Plum Pretty Stakes.
First post for today’s program is at 1:30 p.m., with the NMSU Handicap set for 5:05 p.m.
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.