POSTED: Saturday, February 25, 2012 - 8:01pm
UPDATED: Sunday, February 26, 2012 - 12:14am
Under a strong ride from Alejandro Medellin, Isn’t He Clever roared home a rousing winner in the $150,000 Borderland Derby sponsored by Casa Ford at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino on Saturday.
Isn’t He Clever relaxed very kindly heading into the backstretch of the one and one-sixteenth mile prep for the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III). The Smarty Jones gelding accepted his position smoothly in the three path and was free of traffic while chasing stable mate So Far So Fast and Tequila Factor. Medellin gave his mount the cue to go rounding the far turn, and Isn’t He Clever accelerated menacingly to the front. He swung into the stretch and took command with a stylish move. In deep stretch, the winner poured on the pressure and had plenty left in the tank. The 3-2 second favorite powered home to win by one and three-quarter lengths in a fast time of 1:43. The timing just missed the track record of 1:41.91.
An elated winning trainer Henry Dominguez said, “We couldn’t have had a better trip. The race wound up like we had planned. He ran a lot better today. Last time out, the rider wanted the early lead, and that’s not what we wanted. We learned a lot today, and now have a better idea of where to place him.”
Santa Anita maiden winner Zackn’mat produced an energetic late move but could not threaten the winner. Isn’t He Clever was coming off a fourth place finish in the Grade 2 $200,000 Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. He was a near 12-length winner of the Riley Allison Futurity last December. The bold three-year-old remains unbeaten over New Mexico soil. The Kentucky-bred earned $90,000 for owners J. Kirk and Judy Robison of El Paso, Texas. He has earned over $215,000 from four career wins. The Borderland Derby gives him an excellent springboard to the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) to be run on Sunday, March 25. The winner receives $400,000 in graded monies and a virtual ticket in the 2012 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Winning owner Kirk Robison said, “We tested the waters in California and found the water a little deep. We won the Riley Allison easily, and today we beat a bunch of good horses. So we are back on track. The Sunland Derby is in our plans. Why go anywhere else. The money goes right into the bank.”
Even money favorite Zackn’mat ran a strong race and finished with plenty of energy. The runner-up ridden by Hector Berrios finished up 10 lengths in front of third place finisher Major Hope. The stretch running expert is a son of Northern Afleet. The colt carried himself well in the New Mexico debut. The Martin Jones trainee may well be a strong candidate for the Sunland Derby (Gr. III). The colt earned $33,000 for Gem, Inc.
Major Hope finished a well beaten third followed by So Far So Fast, Tequila Factor, Justanoldsong and Strong Resolve.
Live racing resumes on Sunday at 12:45 p.m. The $50,000 Island Fashion Stakes is the featured 11th race at one mile. Steven Asmussen’s Glinda The Good looms boldly in the prep race for the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks.