Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sunland Park Racetrack column, season ending

By Felix Chavez
El Paso Times
The 51st season of racing at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino had its share of ups and downs, upsets and plenty of wins by the favorites.
But a pair of jockeys and a big effort by a Kentucky-bound horse helped make the season one of the best since I started covering the meet 10 years ago.
Thoroughbred jockey Luis Contreras finally put an end to the reign of Ken Tohill as the top jockey at the track. Tohill had won six straight riding titles entering the 2009-10 campaign, but Contreras won a meet-high 51 races this year, despite missing the last three weeks because he had a commitment to ride in Canada for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Contreras is a solid, young rider and has the potential to win many more titles at the Southern New Mexico track if he stays in the area. The Mexico City native certainly has the potential to move up a notch to a bigger track down the road when he gains more experience.
Contreras is a competent rider, who is patient and takes what is given him on the track.
The other jockey who made covering the races interesting this year was Alejandro Medellin.
The native of Mexico City took New Mexico by storm in 2008 and has established himself as arguably the best overall jockey in the state. He tied for first in the quarter horse standings with 31 wins and was third in the thoroughbred standings with 41 wins, just one out of second place.
Medellin is a tough rider, he will take chances and he is confident in what he doing out there on the track. He is always a danger on a horse, regardless of odds and regardless of the type of race he is riding in.
There have been many great jockeys to grace the oval at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino, but right now it’s Contreras and Medellin battling it out for the top spot at the state’s best track. It’ll be interesting to see the two go head to head next year.
Back on March 28, Sunland Derby had its best field ever in its short history and it was an 11-1 shot, which won that race and left many believing he could fare well in the Kentucky Derby.
Endorsement, trained by Shannon Ritter, was very impressive in winning by three lengths and earning a very nice 101 speed figure in the process.
Endorsement’s win was very respectable in the sense that he beat the likes of Conveyance and Tempted to Tapit, two very good horses.
Ritter did a commendable job of getting her horse ready to run and Endorsement should be sharp for the May 1 Derby.
In all, it was a solid season for Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino. There were many big-time performances by very good horses such as First Moonflash and Queen Greeley and racing fans saw the return of veteran jockey Pat Valenzuela for the final few weeks of the season.
But the meet belonged to Contreras, Medellin and Endorsement and that trifecta made it a winning campaign for the track.
Felix Chavez can be reached at; (915) 546-6374

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