Melvin Neugebauer’s dynamic fastest-qualifier Uptown Dynasty and Keith Nelleson’s undefeated champion KVN Corona will battle side-by-side in the Grade 1, $759,197 Ruidoso Derby and the simulcast of Justify’s Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes combine for an unmatched afternoon of racing at Ruidoso Downs on Saturday.
Also on the program, the classy Hotstepper races in the $100,000 Mr Jess Perry.
First post time is 1 p.m. and there is always free parking and free general admission at Ruidoso Downs.
Uptown Dynasty dominated the Ruidoso Derby trials when he overwhelmed the first 400-yard trial that included the earners of $2.6 million. He burst to the lead and then drew out to the three-and-three-quarter-length victory. His time of :20.116 was the top mark from the 10 trials.
“There were so many good horses (in the trial) that you just couldn’t believe it,” said Neugebauer. “It was the best performance of any horse that I’ve ever owned. If (the trial) would have been 440 (yards), then it could have been five lengths.”
A gelding by Mr Jess Perry trained by Wes Giles, Uptown Dynasty has always shown his Grade 1 class. He finished in a dead heat for the win in last year’s Grade 1 $1 million Ruidoso Futurity, was second in the Grade 1, $1 million Rainbow Futurity and sixth in the Grade 1 $3 million All American Futurity.
Uptown Dynasty was rested over the winter and made his 2018 debut in the Ruidoso Derby trials.
“He’s qualified for four Grade 1 races and that’s hard to do,” said Neugebauer. “You worry about their first out but Wes does such a good job. He’s so much more mature this year. He has really muscled out.”
Neugebauer picked up Uptown Dynasty in the Heritage Place Yearling Sale for $66,000. “I thought he really looked like Miracle Snow,” Neugebauer said. Miracle Snow was a premier New Mexico-bred for Neugebauer from 2006-15. He won 17 of 62 starts and earned $734,261. He won or placed in 23 stakes races.
Uptown Dynasty starts from the fourth post postion while KVN Corona drew the fifth post position.
“They will see each other,” said Neugebauer. “I like it better than being far across the track.”
G.R. Carter Jr. rides Uptown Dynasty while Jesus Rios Ayala is on KVN Corona.
The Paul Jones-trained KVN Corona has been perfection through his first nine starts and was honored as the 2017 champion two-year-old colt after wins in the Grade 1, $960,000 Ed Burke Memorial Futurity and the Grade 2, $382,200 PCQHRA Breeders’ Futurity. The Corona Cartel son won the Grade 3, $235,000 El Primero Del Ano Derby in March.
All of those wins came at Los Alamitos Race Course in Southern California and he came to Ruidoso Downs for the summer season.
After being supplemented at a cost of $30,000 to enter the Ruidoso Derby trials, KVN Corona responded with a three-quarter-length trial win and recorded the fourth-fastest qualifying time of :20.206. That was his first start away from Los Alamitos and his first start at altitude.
KVN Corona, a $140,000 Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale purchase, has earned $684,334 and the $318,780 first-place award in the Ruidoso Derby will push his earnings to $1,003,114.
At Belmont Park outside of New York City, Justify will try to win the Belmont Stakes and become the 13th Triple Crown winner in American racing history. All the races from Belmont Park will be available for wagering at Ruidoso Downs.
Justify will be trying to give trainer Bob Baffert his second Triple Crown sweep in four years. He sent out American Pharoah to win the Triple Crown in 2015. Jim Fitzsimmons is the only trainer of two Triple Crown winners (Gallant Fox and Omaha). Baffert started in quarter horse racing and raced horses at Ruidoso Downs, although based in Arizona and then Los Alamitos.
A son of the deceased Scat Daddy, Justify did not race as a two-year-old and is unbeaten in five starts this year. He won the Santa Anita Derby and went on the Triple Crown trail to take the Kentucky Derby by two-and-one-half lengths and the Preakness Stakes by one-half length.
Mike Smith will ride Justify. The jockey was born in Roswell, New Mexico.
The Mr Jess Perry is for horses who did not qualify to the Ruidoso Derby and preference is given to horses who had the fastest times in the trials, but were not in the top-10 times.
R.D. Hubbard, J.D. Cope, Ray Willis and Butch Southway’s Hotstepper made his 2018 debut in his Ruidoso Derby trial. The One Famous Eagle-sired gelding finished third as the 7-10 favorite and is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the Mr Jess Perry.
Hotstepper, a $63,000 Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale purchase, has earned $485,896 with a third in the All American Futurity and a fast-closing second in the Grade 1, $873,616 Texas Classic Futurity.
Trainer Sleepy Gilbreath will have Jose Amador Alvarez on Hotstepper when they start from the fifth post position.