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Sonny Sandoval
Sonny in 1986
Sonny Sandoval
Portrayed by Rick Batalla
Episode Dead Heat
Status Deceased (1986)

Sonny Sandoval is the victim in "Dead Heat". He was a well-known horse jockey.

Sonny was married twice and his son José was the product of his first marriage. Sonny was also involved in the animal business as a horse trainer. Sonny would become close with another young man named Angelo Rivera, a rookie jockey who considered Sandoval as his mentor and father figure. Sonny had a girlfriend Kristi Duren, who was also a horse trainer.

In public, Sonny was one of the best jockeys around. Even Will Jeffries knew of his womanizing and drinking. Behind the scenes, he was a mess; he was losing too many races and dying due to his failing kidneys. He took a wide array of pills in order to stay 110 pounds so he could continue riding his 1000-pound horse at age 45. He was also broke--the only money he has is the $3 million he saved up as José's inheritance.

These weren't his only problems, as Sonny's boss Randall Baxter killed his horse Firewalker in a barn fire as an insurance fraud scheme, and he knew it was not the first time. Sonny knew his time was short so he finished up his business with his loved ones. He broke up with Kristi so she could move onto her dream job in Florida. He intentionally lost the Derby Cup, enraging both Randall and José, who'd bet $10,000 on him. Randall had a heart attack because of the loss. After the race, Sonny advised Angelo not to stay too long as a jockey before it costs him his health too.

Sonny then went to the stable to mourn Firewalker where he was found by the drunk and angry José. Sonny revealed he was going to expose Baxter's illegal activities. José protested that would get them both blacklisted and they'd never work in horse racing again. Sonny admitted he didn't want his son to grow up in his line of work, which devastated José since he wanted to be like his dad so much. Sonny assured him everything was going to be okay. As he walked away, José grabbed a rake and struck his father across the head, killing him. He buried Sonny in a horse grave, leaving the murder unsolved for 23 years. Sonny always talked of going back to Mexico so no one thought anything of it when he disappeared after losing the biggest race of his career.

The horse grave was uncovered in 2009. Puncture wounds were found in Sonny's skull, reopening his case. In the epilogue, Angelo imagines seeing Sonny riding Firewalker while he is giving a riding lesson.