Robert and Mary Zollars’ Daddy Nose Best won the 10th running of the $800,000 Sunland Park Derby (G3) late Sunday under Julien Leparoux.
The 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy rated comfortably off the early speed duel between Castaway and Ender Knievel, who raced as a runaway team around the first turn of the 1 1/8- mile event. The front runners blitzed through an opening quarter in 22.48 and hit the half in 46.24.
The hot pace took its toll on the pacesetters around the far turn. Isn’t He Clever, winner of the Borderland Derby at Sunland in his previous start for trainer Henry Dominguez, was the first to make a move under Luis Contreras, forging past the back-pedaling frontrunners. Leparoux followed that one, splitting horses with Daddy Nose Best.
Isn’t He clever kicked clear at the head of the lane only to tire some in deep stretch. With a well-timed touch from Leparoux, Daddy Nose Best wore that one down late and collared Isn’t He clever close home to prevail in 1:48.59. Stirred Up ran on for third.
“I got a fantastic effort from the horse,” said Leparoux. “The pace was set up perfect for him. He had plenty left at the end.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen, who began his training career in New Mexico with Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses in the 1980s, saddled the winner.
“Julien gave him a great ride,” Asmussen said. “It means a lot to win here. I felt good about the pace scenario. He had to work to get by the local horse, but he likes a distance of ground. We came here trying to earn our way to the Kentucky Derby.”
It appears Daddy Nose Best did just that in Sunday’s Sunland Park Derby. He flies to Kentucky on Tuesday.
Betting was very brisk on the 2012 Sunland Derby program. An all-sources handle of $3,586,225 was wagered on the 13-race card. The tally was the largest handle ever recorded at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino and the largest handle in New Mexico racing history.
Daddy Nose Best/Coady photo