Sky De­fence eyes Win­sham Lad re­peat

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - News - By Mary Ram­pellini

The march to the Sunland Park Hand­i­cap starts Sun­day.

The $65,000 Win­sham Lad Hand­i­cap is the first step on the road to that race and has brought to­gether some of the best older horses on the grounds at Sunland, in­clud­ing Amer­i­can Dubai, Deputy’s Echo, and Sky De­fence.

The Win­sham Lad, which is for 4-year-olds and up at a mile, is the first of two lo­cal preps for the $150,000 Sunland Park Hand­i­cap on May 4. The sec­ond race in the track’s se­ries for older horses is the $75,000 Cur­ri­bot Hand­i­cap on Feb. 24.

Sky De­fence won last year’s Win­sham Lad and Cur­ri­bot be­fore fin­ish­ing sixth in the Sunland Park Hand­i­cap. He last raced in De­cem­ber and won an al­lowance over a hand­ful of ri­vals he will face Sun­day. Sky De­fence set the pace in the Dec. 19 race at Zia Park and was a length win­ner. Ken To­hill, who was aboard, has the mount again for Richard Lueck and trainer Su­san Ar­nett.

Amer­i­can Dubai, who won the Sunland Park Hand­i­cap in 2017, ex­its the same al­lowance as Sky De­fence, fin­ish­ing fifth. The out was Amer­i­can Dubai’s first since Septem­ber 2017. He was with the pace for much of the al­lowance and was beaten 4 1/2 lengths in a pro­duc­tive come­back. Since the start, Amer­i­can Dubai has worked a bul­let five-eighths in 1:00.40 at Sunland – where he is 4 for 5. Ry Eik­le­berry has the mount for trainer Rod­ney Richards.

Deputy’s Echo is the 122-pound high­weight for the Win­sham Lad off a close third­place fin­ish in the $150,000 Zia Park Dis­tance Cham­pi­onship on Nov. 21. Last year, he was fourth in the Sunland Park Hand­i­cap.

Trainer Justin Evans, who go­ing into Fri­day was 10 wins from a mile­stone of 2,000 Thor­ough­bred vic­to­ries in North Amer­ica, will counter with three starters. Raagheb will break from the rail af­ter run­ning third in the De­cem­ber al­lowance won by Sky De­fence. Percy Fawcett, who was fourth in the same al­lowance, breaks from post 2. Grade 3 win­ner Classy Class will be mov­ing back to two turns when he starts from post 4.

The field of seven for Sun­day also in­cludes Izzy the War­rior, a mul­ti­ple stakes win­ner in­vad­ing from Turf Par­adise.

Jessies First Down gets break

Jessies First Down, the twotime world cham­pion Quar­ter Horse who won four Grade 1 races in his four starts in 2018, is be­ing fresh­ened at his Sunland Park base with plans for the 8-year-old geld­ing’s fu­ture to be de­ter­mined, trainer Jimmy Pad­gett said Thurs­day.

Jessies First Down closed his sea­son last month with a win in the $350,000 Cham­pi­onship at Sunland Park. He has now won 19 of 38 starts and earned $1.6 mil­lion.

“We’re go­ing to give him a lit­tle break and eval­u­ate where he’s at and how he’s do­ing and de­cide if he’s go­ing to run again,” said Pad­gett, who trains the horse for breeder and owner Ted Abrams. “We’ll de­cide in about a month or so.”

Jessies First Down will be look­ing to win a dif­fer­ent kind of race Thurs­day, when the Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse As­so­ci­a­tion an­nounces its cham­pi­ons. He will be seek­ing his third straight world cham­pion ti­tle. Jessies First Down has proven to be one of the sport’s all-time greats at the clas­sic dis­tance of 440 yards, win­ning 13 stakes at the dis­tance – nine of them Grade 1 events – and 19 races over­all at the trip. He is by Fdd Dy­nasty and was bred in Texas.

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