In what is probably her final race, unbeaten Peppers Pride puts her modern North American record 18-race winning streak on the line in the $125,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap at Sunland Park Dec. 14.
"Most likely it will be (her last start), but that's not a final decision," trainer Joel Marr said Dec. 11.
The final call will be made by Joe Allen, Peppers Pride's owner, who is considering stallion options for his New Mexico homebred, Marr said.
"I think racing another year would be possible," Marr said. "She's sound and I know that's what she would want to do.
"It's really a matter of do we want to take a chance on racing her another year, and weighing that against the possibilities of her first year as a broodmare. I don't want to retire her. But for her, it might be the right time. We'll see what happens Sunday and then decide what to do."
The 5-year-old Peppers Pride will take on seven older fillies and mares in the six-furlong Racing Commission Handicap. It's a race she won last year en route to the consecutive victory record, which she established with her 17th win in a Zia Park allowance race Oct. 4. A lifetime earner of $991,085, the daughter of Desert God extended her streak to 18 on Nov. 9 when she captured the New Mexico Cup Fillies & Mares Stakes at Zia.
"This is the most competitive bunch we've been in against in a long time," said Marr. Peppers Pride, carrying 126 pounds, will spot her rivals seven to 13 pounds as the 3-5 morning line favorite.
Second choice Skirt Alert, New Mexico's mare of the year in 2006, is making her second start since going to the sidelines following a second-place finish to Peppers Pride in the New Mexico Distaff Handicap at Sun Ray Park in May of 2007.
"Skirt Alert is one of the best New Mexico mares around. We beat her a neck at Sun Ray a year-and-a-half ago. She was favored against us in a race at Sunland before that (won by Peppers Pride with Skirt Alert third). A nice accomplished mare," Marr said.
A five-time stakes winner, 6-year-old Skirt Alert has 10 victories in 18 lifetime starts with earnings of $442,779. Trained by O.D. Jamison Sr. for owner Orville L. Blades, Skirt Alert ran fourth in her comeback race at Zia Park Oct. 28, a six-furlong allowance. She was beaten three-quarters of a length by the victorious Hang Glide, who also is entered against Peppers Pride.
Silver Expression, second and third to Peppers Pride in their last two match-ups, also gets another shot.
Peppers Pride, a 13-time stakes winner while competing solely against New Mexico-bred females during her four-year racing career, has been stabled at Sunland Park for the past month, Marr said. She breezed three furlongs in :37 on Dec. 9.
"So far, so good," Marr said of Pepper Pride's readiness for the upcoming race. Carlos Medeira, who has ridden the dark bay in each of her starts, has the mount. They will break from post 6 with Skirt Alert on their outside.
If this should be Peppers Pride's last race, Marr said, "It's been great.
"To be honest, I haven't reflected on it. Maybe once it's over (her career), I'll have a chance to sit down and think about what she has meant. It's not that I'm that superstitious, but I don't talk about it a lot. It's been nice for New Mexico. Some things have happened that have never happened in New Mexico racing. So I'm happy for that because I was born here and been around it my whole life and I believe in New Mexico racing. Being on the cover of The Blood-Horse and the Daily Racing Form, it's been great."
$125,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap (Race 10, 4 p.m.), State-bred Fillies & Mares, 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Silver Expression, Ken S. Tohill, 118, 6/1
2. Hang Glide, Mark A. Villa, 116, 12/1
3. Complete Pride, Salvador Martinez, 116, 15/1
4. Negotiablafections, Alfredo J. Juarez, Jr., 115, 10/1
5. Pache Slew, Luis Medina, 113, 20/1
6. Peppers Pride, Carlos D. Madeira, 126, 3/5
7. Skirt Alert (NM), Duane L. Sterling, 119, 5/1
8. Mega Dome (NM), Joe A. Martinez, 114, 20/1