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Sunland Park Racetrack cancels 2016 Derby and Oaks

Sunland Park Racetrack management and the New Mexico Horsemen’s Association made the decision to cancel the G3 Sunland Derby and Sunland Park Oaks which were set to run Sunday, March 20, 2016.

“With everything that’s happened, with the equine herpes virus, they felt as we did that it was the best thing to do to not run the Derby and the Oaks this year,” said General Manager, Rick Baugh.

This decision, made with Churchill Downs where the Kentucky Derby is held, was based on several factors. The facility’s EHV-1 quarantine date will be lifted on March 9, which is only eleven days prior to Sunland Derby and Oaks race day Owners and trainers who normally participate and support the Sunland Derby and Oaks need to be made aware as soon as possible. Owners and trainers can now turn their focus to other qualifying races for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks.

“They were afraid number one they didn’t know if their livestock board would allow anything in from New Mexico,” Baugh said.

Baugh also said he wants to protect the integrity of the Sunland Derby and the Oaks. Owners of high-quality horses may not participate, meaning a lower-quality horse representing New Mexico, which Baugh was against.

“It’s a mysterious virus,” Baugh said. “It hasn’t been around in the forefront for that many years. So there’s a lot of misnomers, there’s a lot of unknowns about the virus. People just aren’t sure and they’re very cautious. Sometimes their horses are like their children.”

Sunland Park also announced the Festival of the Sun for racing fans. The “Festival of the Sun” will take place Saturday, March 19 and Sunday, March 20, including two free outdoor concerts during the festival.

Following live racing on Saturday, March 19, Bobby Pulido will perform live trackside and on Sunday, March 20, Ana Barbara will perform live with Mariachi Aguilas de Las Cruces.

“We’re going to push forward and we’re going to go with what we intended to do on Sunland Derby weekend,” Baugh said.

The Derby and Oaks are expected to return next year.

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