The rich 11-race series is for New Mexico breds and was worth about $2 million in total, including four Quarter Horse races. Seven Thoroughbred events amounted to about $1.1 million in purses.
Joe Allen's Peppers Pride, a 4-year-old homebred daughter of Desert God, was sent off as the prohibitive 3-10 favorite in the six-furlong test. Ridden by Carlos Madeira, Peppers Pride rated behind a fast pace (:21 3/5 and :44 3/5) before splitting horses coming off the turn to challenge the leaders. She swept past pacesetter Hollywood Gone in upper stretch, and, while racing somewhat erratically through the lane, comfortably held off the latecomer Hang Glide. The winning margin was two lengths.
Joel Marr trains Peppers Pride, the queen of New Mexico who is chasing the modern day record of 16 consecutive wins to begin a career held jointly by Mister Frisky and Hallowed Dreams. All of her starts have come against state breds. The New Mexico Cup victory, worth $109,200, increased her earnings to $681,665. She is out of the Chilli Pepper Pie mare Lady Pepper.
"We’re just going to take it one race at a time with her,” Marr said. “We’ll run her as long as she’s sound and then one day she just won’t be entered. We’ll take her to Sunland Park this winter for her next start.”
The winner paid $2.60, $2.40 and $2.10. Hang Glide, ridden by Mark Villa, returned $8.40 and $2.10. It was 1 3/4 lengths to the third-place finisher, Let the Musicbegin ($2.10), ridden by Jorge Bourdieu. The winning time was 1:10 3/5.
“We try not to gain the lead too quick with her,” Marr said. “When she gets to the lead, she pricks her ears and pulls herself up.”
Here's a recap of the remainder of the New Mexico Cup program.
-- Stan Fulton's Some Ghost, with Casey Lambert aboard, circled the field after a slow start and surged to a 2 1/4-length win in the $190,245 New Mexico Cup Classic Championship.
Some Ghost made it back-to-back wins over the Zia main track in the one-mile event after going to the sidelines in April for trainer Jess Alley. The 6-year-old Ghostly Moves gelding won a one-mile allowance heat Oct. 27. The victory, his 10th in 30 lifetime starts, was worth $113,940 and boosted his earnings to $507,389. Some Ghost ran fifth, 6 1/2 length behind all-time New Mexico earnings leader Rocky Gulch, in last year's New Mexico Cup Classic.
V.J. Callaway bred the winner, who returned $13.20. Spelling Bee Jones closed from last at the quarter pole to finish second by a neck over Romeos Wilson. Tanya's Beau, the 6-5 favorite ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, was shuffled back in the stretch and finished eighth.
-- With Joe Talamo aboard, Highland's Best closed powerfully to catch the favored Rocky Gulch in the final stages, edging away to a 1 1/4-length win in the $183,175 New Mexico Cup Classic Sprint.
Rocky Gulch, New Mexico's all-time leading money winner with more than $1.15 million in earnings, gained the lead mid-stretch for Glen Murphy but was overtaken late by Wesley T. Gray's homebred Highland's Best, who claimed his first stakes win.
The winner, a 4-year-old Highland Park gelding, made it back-to-back wins over the Zia main track, completing the six-furlong distance in 1:11. Jimmie Collier trains the chestnut, who won for the sixth time in 19 starts and pushed his earnings to $204,926. Highland's Best earned $109,560 for the win and returned $7.80. Rocky Gulch finished a half-length in front of Alex's Ragtimeband.
-- Z Z Dome, ridden by Duane Sterling, launched a late wide bid in the stretch to get up by three quarters of a length in the $153,890 New Mexico Cup Colt & Geldings Championship for 3-year-olds.
Jim Howard owns the Dome gelding, who is trained by Todd Fincher. Winner of Sunland Park's Pepsi-Cola Handicap in January, Z Z Dome was making his second start since going into the sidelines following a runner-up finish in the New Mexico Breeders' Derby in March. Z Z Dome improved his record to 4-1-1 in seven starts while earning $91,920 for the win. The dark bay boosted his bankroll to $224,206 while paying $6.80.
Blazing Rockstar, with Patrick Valenzuela aboard, finished second, a head better than Key's Band and Joe Talamo. Catch the Bean, the slight favorite at 2-1, finished fourth. The six-furlong time was 1:11 1/5.
-- Good Looker R F overcame a bump nearing the wire from challenger Shezapirate and held on gamely for a neck victory in the $151,460 New Mexico Cup Filly Championship for 3-year-olds.
Ridden by Ken Tohill for owner Rogers Farms and trainer Armando Quintanilla Jr., the gray daughter of Silver Season earned her fifth win in 10 starts and increased her earnings to $186,124. She completed six furlongs in 1:10 2/5 and returned $10.80. Shezapirate, battling from the inside, drifted out in the stretch. She finished second by three-quarters of a length over the late-closing 3-2 favorite Silver Expression.
-- Etoile de Dome kicked through along the inside near the furlong pole and rolled to a surprising 5 1/2-length win for jockey Glen Murphy in the $153,890 New Mexico Cup Juvenile Fillies at odds of 11-1.
The Dome filly, now 2-for-4 in her career for owner M Bar O and trainer Chris Hartman, broke her maiden in her last start at Remington Park. She earned $91,920 and has now banked $118,630. She competed the six-furlong distance in 1:10 1/5 and returned $24.80. One Bad Ghost finished second by 1 3/4 lengths over Red Peaches. Favored Citi Girfriend took up in the stretch after setting the pace and was removed by van.
-- Odds-on choice Run Like Fire earned his third straight victory, drawing off late to win the $153,891 New Mexico Cup Juvenile Colts by 2 3/4 lengths for jockey Joe Martinez.
A colt by Premeditation, Run Like Fire earned his fifth win in six lifetime starts for owner/breeder Mary H. Bowden. Michael J. Welch trains the dark bay, who completed the six furlongs in 1:10 3/5. Run Like Fire's $91,920 winning share nearly doubled his earnings to $185,092. Sent off at odds of 7-10, Run Like Fire returned $3.40. Our Choice nosed Playingwithchimes for second.