Zia Park Racetrack & Casino in Hobbs, N.M., conducted its biggest day of racing since opening in 2005, as Wednesday's inaugural Land of Enchantment Day featured seven stakes with purses worth a total of more than $1.1 million and produced a record wagering handle. The 11-race card, which came together at the last minute after an unseasonal snowfall postponed the races during the weekend, posted a total handle of $1.56 million that smashed the previous Zia record of $1.02 million for New Mexico Cup Day in November 2009.
Unusual Way led every yard to win the first-ever $300,000 Zia Park Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles over Gold Medal Dancer and Oscar Party. With jockey Edwin Maldonado nursing a comfortable lead and looking over his shoulder for the competition, the California-bred filly ran her opponents off their feet for a six-length victory as the 2-1 second choice in 1:44.01.
“My filly ran one of her A-races without question,” her trainer, Jeff Bonde, said. “New Mexico has been good to me. I ran second with Unusual Way in the Sunland Park Oaks, and now she wins this race. That was a pretty outstanding performance.”
In his first race outside Northlands Park in Canada, For Cash scored a 16-1 upset in the final strides of the $200,000 Zia Park Derby at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds. Aldo Arboleda piloted the Alberta-bred trained by Dale Greenwood to a half-length win over Carve and I Stand Alone in 1:45.17. In becoming the first Canadian horse to win the Zia Park Derby, For Cash also posted the biggest odds of a Zia Park Derby winner.
Ol Winedrinker Who continues to get better with age as the 2012 Zia Park Derby winner captured Wednesday's $150,000 Zia Park Distance Championship for older horses at 1 1/8 miles. With Carlos Madeira up, Ol Winedrinker Who took the lead in the homestretch and surged clear for a 3 1/4-length victory in 1:50.09 as the 3-1 favorite.
“He definitely likes the racetrack, and he's run well every time on it,” his trainer, Joel Marr, said. “He's getting better with age and getting more mature. He's learned to run between horses and on the inside. He didn't like that early on.”
Red Lead finished second in the Zia Park Distance Championship for the third year in a row, and No Spin, a stablemate from the Chris Hartman barn, was third.
After finishing second in the race last year, Dm Streakn Thru Fire and jockey Salvador Martinez captured the 440-yard, $150,000 Grade 1 Zia Park Quarter Horse Championship. With the neck win over Feature Mr Bojangles and Jess Fly With Me in 21.813 seconds, Dm Streakn Thru Fire earned a berth to next month's Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos Race Course, the richest Quarter Horse race for older horses in the United States.
“He was a longshot on the board but he had outrun every one of those horse at one time or another,” trainer Mike Joiner said about the 27-1 upset.
In other stakes results, Lady Genius beat the boys in the 1-mile, $140,000 Eddy County Stakes for 2 year-olds bred in New Mexico. Wine Thief pulled away for a four-length win in the 6-furlong, $55,000 Zia Park Distaff for fillies and mares. Aful Alibi captured the 400-yard, $140,000 Restricted Grade 1 New Mexico Quarter Horse Fillies and Mares Championship.
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