Instygator was looking to repeat his All American Derby win over Empressum on Sunday in the 20th running of the Grade 1, The Championship at Sunland Park.
The talented four-year-old was impressive just like he was in back in September at Ruidoso Downs and won Sunday's race in a time of :21.31 seconds in Sunland Park's richest quarter horse race of the 55-day meet, which began Friday.
Instygator, who left the gate odds of nearly 3-1, got a great start out of the No. 4 post and never faltered as Empressum tried to chase him down.
"He broke great, he had lots of energy. He was ready for this race," winning jockey Juan Pulido said. "He was prepared well for the race and he's a great horse. I've been blessed to have ridden this horse in his last three starts."
Instygator now owns eight wins from 12 starts. As a two-year-old he was second in the All American Futurity and seconds in the Texas Classic Futurity.
The Texas-bred son of Ivory James is trained by Santos Carrizales and is owned by Barboza Racing Corp. (Francisco Barboza et al.).
Empressum, who won the Ruidoso and Rainbow derbies last summer in Ruidoso and was both the morning-line and post time favorite, was seeking his 14th win in 18 starts for trainer Heath Taylor. He got off to a good start but just could not get in front of Instygator.
Apollitical Papa finished third.
"Instygator always gives a great effort," Pulido said. "We knew it would be a tough race, but he handled everything well."
Saturday's featured races
The 5 and 1/2 furlong New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap featured an upset as 14-1 longshot Lemon Drop Gold finished strong down the stretch to win the $100,000 race and win her third career race.
Jockey Frank Reyes made the winning move on the far turn getting by pacesetter Mindofmyown before earning the lead entering the top of the stretch and never looking back.
Owned by El Paso's Paul W. Jenson and trained by Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Lemon Drop Gold moved up quickly after the start and engaged with Mindofmyown through an opening half mile in 47.61 seconds before taking control of the race and winning in a time of 1:07.27.
Bred in New Mexico, the 5-year-old mare by Gold Mover drew clear inside the final furlong, winning by 3 1/2 lengths, racing the 5 1/2 furlongs in a time of 1:07.29 seconds. It was her first career stakes win.
Mindofmyown finished second under jockey Kelsi Purcell for trainer Nancy Summers.
"She ran a great race," Jenson said. "We got some rain on the track and she likes that type of surface. She won at Ruidoso last summer on a rainy track. She's coming along and doing some good things. It was a nice win against a good field."
In Saturday's co-feature, the $65,000 KLAQ Handicap, trainer Bart Hone held the strongest hand of all, as Competitive Idea drew clear in the final strides to beat barnmate Mr Paytience by a length and a half.
Bred in Kentucky and owned by Luxury Group Racing LLC and Mike Luciano, the 5-year-old gelded son of Competitive Edge dueled with Mr Paytience from the opening strides. Ridden smartly by Luis Negron, Competitive Idea had a narrow lead on the outside through the far turn, then fought tenaciously to the wire, giving Hone his first stakes winner of the season.
Competitive Idea ran the five furlongs over a track labeled good in 1:00.26 seconds and returned $4.20 as the post time favorite. Competitive Idea has now won four times from 17 career starts and increases his lifetime earnings to more than $181,000.
Mine That Star runs second
Mine That Star, who is the half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird finished second on Saturday in a one mile allowance optional claiming race.
Mine That Star, who is trained by Summers, has four wins, a second and a third in eight starts.
El Paso owned horse returns to racing
Diabolical Gator. who is owned by El Paso's Kirk and Judy Robison, races on Tuesday in the 8th race at Sunland Park in a 6 and 1/2 furlong race.
Diabolical Gator, who is an eight-year-old New Mexico bred, was once a stakes winning horse but took three years off after a race in 2018. However, he returned to racing on Dec. 7 at Zia Park in Hobbs, New Mexico, and won an allowance race at 5 and 1/2 furlongs to improve his career record to seven wins from nine starts.
Robison said Diabolical Gator had to injury but rather took time off to rest and relax before returning to the track to race.
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Instygator wins Grade 1, 440-yard Championship at Sunland Park