EL PASO, Texas - The winner of Sunday's 14th running of the 1⅛ mile Sunland Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino will go on to compete at the iconic Kentucky Derby.
12 horses will race for 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby that will be awarded to the winner of the Sunland Derby. Local horse "Conquest Mo Money" has 9-2 odds and is the second favorite in the Sunland Derby, with three straight wins heading into the race.
A locally based horse has won only twice in 13 races back in 2004 and 2007, so these wins are few and far between. Miguel Hernandez, the trainer for Conquest Mo Money, said he is not afraid of competing with some of the nation's best horses.
"Well this horse shows something different, he shows he can run and I feel very confident," Hernandez said. "It is like a regular race for me, and I am not a big trainer, but I try to be like one."
While big out-of-town trainers fly to the Sunland Park Racetrack to try to earn a bid to the Kentucky Derby, the playing field this time around is very even despite the trainers and owners.
Eric Alwan, the publicity director with the Sunland Park Racetrack, said Conquest Mo Money is bringing a lot of momentum into the race and shouldn't be overlooked.
"These races are usually dominated by the Californian's," Alwan said. "But I really look forward to a big effort from Conquest Mo Money."
The Sunland Derby was canceled last year due to an outbreak of the Equine Herpes virus. But Alwan said there are no concerns moving forward as all trainers and owners were assured the track was free of any harm.
"Heavy duty protocols were set in place where a situation like that wouldn't arise again," Alwan said. "The 50 points and money mean a lot, and the robust response we have seen from the nation's top trainers shows they are very confident in running here."
In total there will be seven stakes races and the Sunland Derby will be race No. 9 with a post time of 5:28 p.m.