Favored Rocky Gulch would not be denied in his quest to become racing's newest millionaire, prevailing by a neck over El Minuto in the $212,100 New Mexico Cup Classic Championship at Zia Park Sunday in Hobbs, N.M.
The victory by the 5-year-old gelding highlighted a day in which $2 million was offered in purses to the connections of Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses bred in New Mexico. Rocky Gulch, who won this race last year as well, is the all-time leading money earner among New Mexico Thoroughbreds.
With Travis Cunningham aboard, Rocky Gulch stalked the pacesetter Roll On Retsina and El Minuto for three quarters of a mile, rallied three wide on the final turn and won a long stretch duel, surging in the final couple of strides before the wire at odds of 11-10. The final time for the one-mile event on a fast track was 1:40 3/5.
The Larry Teague homebred notched his 17th win in 31 lifetime starts while increasing his earnings to $1,022,807.
Terry Walker trains the chestnut son of Dry Gulch--Rona Prospect (Allen's Prospect), who earned $127,260 for his fourth victory of 2006 in 11 tries. Rocky Gulch, coming off a victory in the Carlsbad at Zia Park Oct. 2, has won four of five starts since being teamed with Cunningham this season.
Roll on Retsina set fractions of :24 and :48 3/5 before giving way to El Minuto, who advanced along the rail for jockey Ken Tohill to take the lead after a half-mile while completing six furlongs in 1:13 2/5. Set down for the stretch drive, El Minuto fought gallantly against the winner. Spelling Bee Jones, Alfredo Juarez Jr. aboard, closed willingly to get third, 2 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up.
He paid $4.20, $3.20 and $2.40. El Minuto returned $4.40 and $3. Spelling Bee Jones was $3 to show.
Dear Bull finished fourth, followed by 3-1 second choice Some Ghost, Exccessive Lover, Cattleman Prospect, Sandias Peppermint, Roll On Retsina, Phantom Account and My Desert Lady.