SunRay Park prepares for another season of live horse racing
FARMINGTON − SunRay Park and Casino's 24th season of live racing gets underway on Friday, April 7 for a 21-day meet which will run through Sunday, May 21.
The opening day program will be highlighted by the $100,000 guaranteed New Mexico Breeders Stakes, a Grade 3 event for 3-year-old quarter horses racing 400 yards.
That stakes race is one of 11 over the course of the season, with six stakes races to offer at least $100,000 in purse monies to horsemen who come from across the southwest to participate in the season.
In all, stakes races will offer more than $1 million in guaranteed and added-money purses with total purse monies exceeding $3.7 million for the upcoming season.
SunRay Park's new director of racing Steve Fedunak is looking forward to the start of the season, especially coming off a strong meet at Sunland Park near El Paso, which wrapped up its season on Sunday, April 2.
"I think people will be impressed with the quality of the horses we'll have racing here this season," Fedunak said. "We've got barns that will be stabled here from Arizona and Colorado that racing fans will get a chance to see some real solid talent."
Fedunak took over as director of racing following the retirement of Lonnie Barber at the end of last season. Barber, who will still be on track as a racing consultant this season, worked as director of racing at SunRay for nearly 20 years. Fedunak hopes that Barber's success at the job will carry over.
"To have the kind of relationship that (Barber) had with the horsemen across the region was legendary," Fedunak said. "I just hope that I can succeed him and be able to take his knowledge and experience and help us in going forward."
Trainer Todd Fincher, coming off a spectacular season as the leading thoroughbred trainer at Sunland Park near El Paso, is once again expected to have a giant presence on the SunRay Park backstretch this season. Fincher is expected to have as many as 30 stalls filled this season. He was the fourth leading trainer at SunRay in 2021, and has been one of the leading conditioners at tracks in New Mexico and Texas in recent years.
Fincher earned one of the biggest wins of his career when he sent out Flying Connection to win the $300,000 Sunland Park Oaks on March 26. The 3-year-old filly is expected to make her next start in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on Friday, May 5.
Last year's top three leading thoroughbred trainers at SunRay Park, Martin Valdaz-Cabral, Jr. as well as Nancy Summers and Dick Cappellucci, are also expected to hold a strong hand this upcoming season.
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"Our backstrectch is going to be loaded this season," Fedunak said. "We've got some really top trainers and horsemen who have made the commitment to this season."
On the quarter horse side, trainers Wes Giles and Raul Vega will bring horses to the track at SunRay this season. Giles and Vega each led the standings among top quarter horse trainers with six wins apiece during the 2022 season.
Giles, a multiple graded-stakes winning trainer, had his biggest career victory when he sent out KJ Desparado to victory in the 2021 All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs. Giles has won nearly 1,300 races with purses totaling more than $32 million in his 30-year career as a trainer.
Jockeys Hector Aldrete and Alfredo Juarez, Jr. are expected to be competing for supremacy yet again in their respective divisions. Aldrete was the leading quarter horse rider last season and just wrapped up a tremendous season at Sunland Park, winning 21 times from more than 150 mounts.
Juarez, one of the all-time leading thoroughbred riders in the state of New Mexico, will be in search of his sixth riding title at SunRay since 2015.
One of the highlights of the racing season will be the $120,000-added New Mexico Breeders Futurity, which will be run on Saturday, May 20 for 2-year-old quarter horses at 350 yards. Major Game, trained by Eric Valenzuela and ridden by Sergio Becerra, Jr., earned the biggest win of his career in that event last year.
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Racing dates and post time information
Racing will be held Friday through Sunday afternoons for seven weeks, with first post time set for 2:15 p.m. each day. In addition to the track's own live racing dates, there will be the opportunity to watch and wager on some of America's biggest races during the meet, including the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 6 and the Preakness Stakes from Baltimore on Saturday, May 20.
Friday race cards will focus on quarter horse racing, with Saturday programs concentrated on thoroughbreds. Sunday racing cards will be a mix of both thoroughbred and quarter horse races.
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One of the richest thoroughbred races of the season will be held on Saturday, April 9 when SunRay presents the $100,000 Russell and Helen Foutz Distaff Handicap for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares racing 6 1/2 furlongs.
The closing day of the season will be highlighted by the $75,000 guaranteed San Juan County Commissioners Stakes, for older thoroughbreds racing a mile and one-eighth.
Valdaz-Cabral teamed with jockey Francisco Amparan last year in the San Juan County Commissioners Handicap when 12-to-1 longshot Sly scored an upset victory.
Sly, a winner in each of his two most recent starts at Sunland Park earlier this winter, may be coming back to defend his title in the race.
For more information on the upcoming live season of horse racing at SunRay Park, check out their official page at equibase.com.