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El Paso, TX (KDBC) — This year’s Kentucky Derby definitely lived up to its name as the most exciting two minutes in sports.
For those of us in the Borderland, adding a Sunland Park Derby winner into the mix made the race that much more special.
Nearly 5,000 people cheered Chitu on; the thoroughbred ran in 2nd place for three quarters of the race but fell short. Chitu placed 9th.
The favorite, California Chrome, won with the unofficial time of 2:30.
"This is the most exciting day in horse racing," said Susan Vescovo, former New Mexico Racing Commissioner.
Chitu won Sunland Derby back in March.
“This is our super bowl. This is the biggest race in North America, the Kentucky Derby,” said Dustin Dix, the Director of Racing Operations for Sunland Park Racetrack. “For Sunland to be part of that, to have a horse qualify for the derby every year, it’s a big deal.”
Race fans were hopeful that Chitu would follow in the footsteps of Mine That Bird, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby in 2009 after racing at Sunland.
For at least part of the race, it seemed like it would be possible.
"We were very excited about Chitu for about three quarters of the race. He was hanging in there. But then he got tired in the last quarter mile," explained Steve Pedigo, Simulcast Coordinator for the racetrack.
Vescovo said winning the big one is every owners goal.
“It's what everyone dream of,” she said. “Every time a horse is born at your house, that is your dream."
Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino General Manager, Rick Baugh, said fans in the Borderland bet close to half a million on today's races.
"Right around $450,000. We are hoping to exceed that this year."
As for Chitu, there may still be hope for the future.
“Chitu might be able to show up in the Preakness,” Pedigo said. “But definitely California Chrome’s effort here might scare off some competitors.”
The Kentucky Derby is the first of three races that make up horse racing's coveted Triple Crown. Some are now saying Saturday’s winner, California Chrome could be the next Triple Crown winner, something that hasn't been done since 1978.
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