Undefeated record-holder Peppers Pride saved her most dazzling effort of the year for her 19th and probably last race, surging past the leaders in the stretch run to win the $125,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap at Sunland Park Dec. 14.
Ridden with extreme confidence by Carlos Madeira, the stalking Peppers Pride put in a big move around the turn in the six-furlong dash to move within three lengths of pacesetting Negotiablafections coming into the lane. Running with abandon down the center of the track, she swept past Negotiablafections approaching the eighth pole and drew off to an impressive 5 3/4-length triumph. The final time was a smart 1:09.54 on a fast track.
With the victory, the pride of New Mexico racing went over the $1 million mark in career earnings for owner/breeder Joe Allen and trainer Joel Marr. Allen came into the race reportedly "95% sure" he would retire the 5-year-old mare to the breeding shed afterward. After such a compelling win, her fifth victory in 2008, it seems that he couldn't have picked a better time to send her off in a blaze of glory.
Peppers Pride established a modern North American record with her 17th consecutive win Oct. 4 at Zia Park , surpassing the recognized mark held jointly by Citation, Cigar and two others in an optional claiming allowance race. She extended the streak with a workman-like stakes win at Zia Nov. 9. But this time, facing a better field while giving between seven and 12 pounds to her rivals, she was outstanding.
“It going to be hard to decide (about retiring Peppers Pride) after such a terrific race," Marr said. "I want to thank everybody who has supported her from the $2 bettors, to the grooms and my family. She is the best horse I have ever touched.”
In pushing her career earnings to $1,066,085, Peppers Pride has won seven times at Sunland Park, where she captured this race in 2007. The daughter of Desert God--Lady Pepper, by Chili Pepper Pie, is also seven-for-seven at six furlongs. All of her races, including 14 stakes wins, have come against state-bred females.
Peppers Pride unbeaten streak dates to her debut win at Ruidoso Downs on July 16, 2005. She became the third New Mexico-bred racehorse to earn over $1 million.
Madeira allowed Peppers Pride, breaking from post 6 in the eight-horse field, to leave the gate with the leaders before taking her in hand and stalking off the rail as Negotiablafections took over under Alfredo Juarez Jr. Negotiablafections, a 4-year-old filly in her first stakes and in just her fifth start overall, set quick fractions of :22.38 for the opening quarter-mile and :45.65 for the half.
Peppers Pride, moving from mid-pack, ranged up while three wide on the turn, but Negotiablafections looked like she might be difficult to run down after she disposed of pace rivals Complete Pride, the winner's stablemate, and Pache Slew in upper stretch. When Peppers Pride hit the homestretch, she was in full stride, however, and she swept right by Negotiablafections to win handily.
"We had a great trip," said Madeira, the only race rider Peppers Pride has ever known. "She exploded late when I asked her. She gave me everything I could ever want.”
Peppers Pride, who carried 126 pounds and was sent off at odds of 4-5, paid $3.80, $2.20, and $2.10.
Negotiablafections had won three races in a row at Zia by a combined margin of nearly 20 lengths coming into the race and was sent off as the 2-1 second choice. She proved a game runner-up, returning $3.20 and $3 while capping a $2 exacta of $11.20.
It was three lengths to Hang Glide, $4.20 to show under Mark Villa. Megadome finished fourth.