FARMINGTON — The straightest ride or the smoothest ride isn't always the fastest ride.
Such was the case Sunday when LF Star Jumper didn't necessarily take the straightest nor smoothest path to the winners circle under jockey Macario Rodriguez, but it was the fastest route as the California-bred son of Jumpn won the $35,000 Amimas Quarter Horse Stakes in front of a crowd of over 1250 people at SunRay Park & Casino.
Breaking from the inside post as the 6.70-to-1 fourth choice in the wagering, LF Star Jumper broke quickly from the gate and had a half-length lead within the first 100 yards, but mdway down the stretch in the 400 yard dash, he began to drift course while maintaining his lead.
He opened up some more distance in the final 100 yards of the race, crossing the finish line 1 1/4 lengths in front of longshot Jess Rueben James. It's the fourth win from nine lifetime starts for LF Star Jumper, owned and trained by Gabino Carrillo, who made a big splash in his training debut here at SunRay Park.
Sunday's win is the first stakes win for LF Star Jumper, who improves his lifetime earnings to over $40,000. He was coming off a notable effort at Sunland Park last time out where his tactics cost him a better finishing position.
“It's just something he does,” Rodriguez said after the race. “He did the same thing last time out when we finished third, but he was disqualified. Today, he just broke so fast.”
The final time of 19.43 seconds for the 400 yards is quite decent, and it may be that LF Star Jumper, if he learns to maintain a straight course, may be a decent runner to reckon with.
Fans who backed LF Star Jumper were rewarded with a $15.40 return for their $2 bet. Jess Rueben James, sent off as the longest shot in the 8-horse field, lugged in shortly after the start and was actually inside the winners path when he crossed under the wire under Larry Gamez, a half-length in front of another Carrillo-trainer runner, longshot JJ In Motion and rider Hector Aldrete.
Morning-line and post-time favorite Whiteface Eagle, coming off a super effort at Sunland Park last month finishing third in the Grade 3 West Texas Derby, was fourth across the wire with no visible excuse under jockey Esgar Ramirez.
Behind Whiteface Eagle across the finish line were Im Rowdy James, CB Special Version, La Perrita de Anya, Jess Like Stoli and Takin On The Fire. Rex Hill was scratched earlier in the day.
On the day, Gamez continues to be on fire this meet, picking up three victories, including two for trainer Dick Powell. Those two have combined for four winners already this meet. Gamez also won a race for trainer Martin Orona, bringing the rider's total to five wins in the first three days of the meet.
Live racing resumes Tuesday at SunRay Park, with a nine-race program set to kick off at 3 p.m.
Next weekend's highlight races will feature some of New Mexico's finest thoroughbreds and quarter horses. Saturday's $65,000 Jack Cole Handicap is traditionally a must-run for some of the state's finest older thoroughbreds, while the Sunday feature, the Four Corners Senora Stakes will highlight some of the state's older filly and mare shortliners.