FARMINGTON – A pair of attractive stakes races headline the opening weekend at SunRay Park and Casino, which is set to open today for another season of live quarter horse and thoroughbred racing.
The 2016 season is expected to feature some of the top racehorses in the southwest, as well as a return of some familiar faces, which includes last year's New Mexico Breeders' Futurity winner Rg Miracle.
No worse than second in eight of nine career starts for owner Shirley Grisham and trainer Ken Grisham, Rg Miracle has earned more than $180,000 in his career.
The New Mexico-bred son of Hearts Miracle won the New Mexico Breeders' Futurity here for his second career win. His win helped cement Grisham's place as the leading quarter horse trainer during the 2015 season.
Grisham took his leading-trainer performance from SunRay on the road for much of last year, ranking in the top 50 of quarter horse trainers for 2015 with purse earnings topping $505,000.
Rg Miracle has been installed as the 5-to-2 morning-line favorite for today’s Animas Stakes, which will go as the eighth race on a nine-race card. Racing is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.
The 400-yard Animas Stakes will be Rg Miracle's first start against open company since he broke his maiden here last July. His other three wins have all been against state-bred company.
Jose Luis Enriquez will be on board Rg Miracle, breaking from the No. 8 post in the nine-horse field.
Just outside Rg Miracle in the No. 9 post will be Witman, Rg Miracle’s toughest competition in the race.
The California-bred son of Tac It Like A Man has one win from four lifetime starts. He hasn't raced since finishing second at a Futurity trial at Lone Star Park in Texas last October, but he appears to be coming back well for his return to the races and his local debut for trainer Albert Franco.
Witman's lone win came in a trial for the All American Futurity last August at Ruidoso Downs. He’s listed as the 3-to-1 second choice on the morning line.
Aside from Rg Miracle, one of the most accomplished runners in the Animas is Thru The Night, drawn just to the inside of Rg Miracle.
Bred in California and trained by Jaime Martinez, Thru The Night is also returning from a long layoff. He owns two wins from nine starts, including his most recent outing at Los Alamitos in Cypress, Calif., in November.
Thru The Night is listed as the 4-to-1 third choice on the morning line.
The Animas Stakes has a scheduled post time of 5:48 p.m.
Saturday, some of the region's top thoroughbreds will get a chance to show off in the $34,400 Inaugural Handicap, run at six and one half furlongs.
Trainer Justin Evans — one of the leading thoroughbred conditioners in the nation and top trainer at SunRay for the past several seasons — will send out a pair of runners in the Inaugural, including Alsono, a two-time winner over this course and earner of more than $301,000.
The Kentucky-bred 5-year-old has nine career victories, including the SunRay Park and Casino Marathon last year and the SunRay Park and Casino Handicap in 2014.
Alsono has racked up career wins at Ruidoso, Albuquerque and most recently Sunland Park, Texas, where he scored an upset win in the KLAQ Handicap on Dec. 19.
Alsono drew post position three in the Inaugural and has been installed as the 2-to-1 morning-line favorite.
Among Alsono's five rivals in the Inaugural is his stablemate Redneck Humor, the 3-to-1 second choice, who drew the rail.
Redneck Humor, coming off an impressive win last month at Sunland Park in the Bill Thomas Memorial Handicap, is scheduled to make his local debut in the Inaugural. A five-time winner from 15 starts, the Florida-bred son of Da Stoops will likely be hustled to the lead from that spot.
Saturday's Inaugural Handicap is scheduled as the eighth race on a nine-race card that has a first post time of 1:15 p.m. The Inaugural is scheduled to arrive at the starting gate at 4:03 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.