FARMINGTON — Opening weekend at SunRay Park was highlighted by a pair of stakes races for New Mexico thoroughbreds and quarter horses.
On Saturday, older filly and mare thoroughbreds did battle in the Russell and Helen Foutz Distaff Handicap, while 3-year-old short liners squared off on Sunday in the New Mexico Breeders’ Stakes.
Here’s a recap of the opening weekend stakes action.
Lemon Drop Gold scores upset win in Foutz Handicap
Earning just her second career stakes win, Lemon Drop Gold proved best in deep stretch, pulling off an upset score in Saturday’s $100,000 Russell and Helen Foutz Distaff Handicap at SunRay Park and Casino.
Ridden by Frank Reyes for trainer Juan M. Gonzalez, the 5-year-old daughter of Gold Mover snapped a three-race losing streak, taking advantage of a quick early pace and riding a tailwind into the winners’ circle, rallying from a bit off the pace to prove best by nearly a length over Proofsinthepuddin.
Owned by Paul Jenson and winning for the fourth time in 10 career starts, Lemon Drop Gold sat a bit off the pace set by Tutta Terlingua and Line Call. Those two raced the opening quarter mile in 22.65 seconds.
Down the backstretch and into the teeth of a mild headwind, the leaders began to labor a bit approaching the far turn. Reyes guided Lemon Drop Gold to the outside turning for home and established a clear lead passing the final furlong before crossing the wire by three-quarters of a length, racing 6 1/2 furlongs in a time of 1 minute, 17.63 seconds.
Lemon Drop Gold was off the board in her most recent start, finishing sixth in an allowance race at Sunland Park on March 27. Her last win, also an upset, was in the New Mexico Racing Commission Handicap on Jan 1.
Sent off as the third-longest shot in the nine-horse field at odds of 13.90-to-1, Lemon Drop Gold returned $29.80 to win.
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The victory in the Foutz increases her lifetime earnings to more than $159,000.
Proofsinthepuddin came on late for second, the $2 exacta with the top two finishers returning $375. Tutta Terlingua held on for third, just a neck in front of Flaxy Lady to round out the top four finishers.
Post time favorite Our Time To Shine raced off the pace throughout but never got going around the turn, finishing sixth and beaten 10 lengths.
River Flash edges clear in New Mexico Breeders Stakes
Overcoming a bit of a bumpy start, jockey Adrian Ramos guided River Flash to an upset score in Sunday’s $100,000 New Mexico Breeders Stakes for trainer Wes Giles and owners Robert M. Driggers and Ben Lee Ivey.
River Flash, breaking from the three post in the field of 10, got a bit tangled up at the break with his starting gate neighbors on both sides, Wish Bigg and Hs Golden Eagle, but still got away almost in the 400-yard affair.
Ramos straightened out the 3-year-old son of Chicks Regard as the field headed down the stretch, inch clear in the final 100 yards before holding off a late rally from Hs Golden Eagle to win by three-quarters of a length, racing 400 yards in a wind-aided final time of 19.59 seconds.
Giles, one of the leading quarter horse trainers in America and a winner of both the All-American Futurity and All American Derby, saddled his first winner of the SunRay season. Giles has won the quarter horse training title at SunRay Park three times in the past 10 seasons.
River Flash snapped a three-race losing streak with the win in the New Mexico Breeders Stakes. His most recent effort was a sixth-place finish in the New Mexico Horse Breeders Association Stakes on March 12 at Sunland Park. His last victory came at Albuquerque Downs last September in the New Mexico State Fair Juvenile Stakes.
River Flash has three career wins from seven starts and earnings topping $108,000.
Sent off as the fourth longest shot on the toteboard at odds of 13-to-1, River Flash returned $28 to win, while second place finisher Hs Golden Eagle ensured a $2 exacta payoff of $741. Wente finished third with Daddy’s Money rounding out the top four finishers.
More:Rich stakes races headline SunRay Park’s opening weekend
Post time favorite Wish Bigg was a handful at the gate prior to the start. Ridden by Mario Delgado from post two, the son of Big Daddy Cartel broke through the gate seconds before the race began, then was involved in the bumpy start to the race. Sent off at odds of 3-to-2, Wish Bigg flattened out in deep stretch and beat one horse.
Racing resumes Friday afternoon at 2:15 pm at SunRay Park and Casino. Next weekend’s highlight race is the $75,000 La Plata Stakes, for older quarter horses racing 400 yards which will go as the fourth race on Sunday.
For more information on the current racing season at SunRay Park, check out their official page at Equibase.com.
Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at [email protected], via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.