FARMINGTON >> The fastest qualifier may not be the fastest finisher when it comes to determining winners in futurity races.
In the case of King Of Pop, the longshot winner of Sunday's $133,000 New Mexico Breeders' Futurity at SunRay Park & Casino, one of the slowest qualifiers when trial races were held here earlier this month, was not only first across the wire, but bettered his trial race time by over a half-second.
Ridden to victory by Macario Rodriguez, who rode four winners on the day, King Of Pop, the third longest shot on the board at odds of 13.90-to-1, King Of pop avoided a troubled break from several of his rivals at the start, dueled all the way to the wire and prevailed by a head over First Place Moonfast in a dramatic renewal of one of SunRay Park's annual richest races of the season.
Trained by Lonnie Vaughn, the son of Chicks Cherry Cola got a clean start from post 2 in the 10-horse field, who took over on a short lead midway down the stretch of the 350-yard dash.
Meantime, a logjam wrecked the chances of Miss Tessmocker, Sassy Moonflash and My Coronita, all three of which lost their best chance at the start of the race.
King Of Pop, who now owns two wins from three starts, ran the 350 yards in a fast time of 17.42 seconds, which is a full .53 seconds faster than the time he earned when winning his trial heat on May 10.
“He's just now getting really good,” Vaughn said after the race. “He was getting better at the time of the trials and he's doing really well right now.”
King Of Pop rewarded his backers with a return of $29.80 for their investment.
For his efforts, King Of Pop has now increased his lifetime earnings to over $65,000 for owner Verona Vaughn.
First Place Moonfast, the second fastest qualifier for the Futurity, was a close second, a full length in front of third place finisher Miss Tessmocker. Following that one across the wire were Cashmere, an unlucky Sassy Moonflash, My Coronita, post time favorite and fastest qualifier AJ Hardwood, Posies K Won, Madams First Moon and Just A Memory Chick.
In Sunday's co-featured $65,000 Dine Stakes, Attila's Hurricane reversed her most recent form cycle with a front-running score under jockey Isaias Cardenas.
Allowed to settle on the front end under moderate fractions, the 3-year-old New Mexico-bred son of Attila's Storm rebounded after three straight losses, including two well-beaten efforts as the favorite in the Red Hedeman Mile and the Pepsi Cola Handicap last winter at Sunland Park.
Sunday, Attila's Hurricane raced uncontested on the front end through early fractions of 23.93 seconds and 47.26 seconds for the first half-mile.
Cardenas had assumed a two-length advantage at the head of the lane and was never threated in deep stretch, picking up his third career win from six starts for trainer Bart Hone and owner Gary Thompson.
“He just settled in nicely for me on the backstretch and it seemed he was much more relaxed today,” said Cardenas after the win.
Cardenas was riding Attila's Hurricane for the first time in his career, and it appeared as if horse and rider got along just fine on Sunday.
For Attila's Hurricane, who crossed the wire in a final time of 1 minute, 19.75 seconds for the six and one-half furlongs, the win increases his lifetime earnings to just under $96,000.
Attila's Storm's final winning margin was listed as two and three-fourths lengths ahead of post time favorite Hush's Storm, who never threatened the winner while making his first start since winning the New Mexico Breeders' Derby last March at Sunland Park.
Behind Hush's Storm across the wire Carmen's Rocket, Jacks Party, Key To The Venture, Keagan's Way and Pie Town NM.
In addition to his win aboard King Of Pop in the Breeders' Futurity, Rodriguez also rode Zoomin Away to victory in Sunday's 2nd race.
He also won aboard Radcliffe Man in the 6th race and aboard Eye For An Eye in the 7th race. Rodriguez' scores in the second and seventh races were both earned for trainer Henry Dominguez.
Cardenas was also putting on a riding clinic of his own on Sunday, scoring three wins. In addition to the stakes win aboard Attila's Hurricane, Cardenas won the first race aboard My Sakima and the fifth race aboard Miss Bullette.
Live racing will resume on Tuesday, with a first post of 3 p.m.
Later this week, on Friday, trial races will be held for the upcoming Four Corners Futurity, also one of the richest and most prestigious races of the annual racing season at SunRay Park & Casino.