FARMINGTON — Sandy's Jesse has distance limitations.
That was the word coming into Saturday's featured event, the $65,000 Tommy Duke Smith Stakes at SunRay Park & Casino.
At 350 yards, Sandy's Jesse was a good thing.
At 400 yards, maybe not so much.
So when Sandy's Jesse, the 4-to-5 favorite under jockey Tanner Thedford, broke like a shot from her post in the 400-yard dash and assumed a brief lead, it was expected that at in those last few yards, things would get dicey.
They did indeed.
Aful Alibi, making her stakes debut for owner/trainer Gabino Carrillo and ridden by the meet's leading jockey, Macario Rodriguez, passed the heavy favorite midway down the backstretch and eventually ran down SLR Jessies Girl to post a one-length victory in front of a crowd of over 1,150 fans in attendance on the penultimate day of racing this season at the Farmington track.
The daughter of Genuine Strawfly was coming off a pair of near-misses against softer company in her most recent starts, which would explain her status as the third choice in the wagering at odds of 6.10-to-1. Still, she ran exceptionally well to corral the leaders, passing the 200-yard mark before veering out a bit in the late stages, though well clear of the field on her way to victory.
"She gets to doing that a little bit," Rodriguez said about Aful Alibi's late-running antics. "She's a real handful, but she has a lot of talent."
For Carrillo, this stakes win has been a culmination of a very strong meet for the horseman. He has saddled winners in two of the meet's biggest stakes races.
Last April, Carrillo went 1-3 when winning the $35,000 Animas Quarter Horse Stakes when LF Star Jumper took home top honors. Finishing third that day was JJ In Motion, which makes Carrillo quite a strong player this season in stakes company.
With the win, Aful Alibi picked up $39,000 in purse money, increasing her total earnings to over $67,000 while picking up her third score from 10 starts.
Aful Alibi ran the 400 yards in a quick time of 19.53 seconds. Her backers were rewarded with a $14.40 return on investment.
SLR Jessies Girl, a 12-to-1 longshot ridden by Esgar Ramirez, finished second, nearly a length clear of Afame.
Behind Afame across the wire were Posies Desiria, Sandy's Jesse, A Dashing Chick, Get Down Bambini, Ms James and Smafricate.
Sandy's Jesse, despite a fine record over the course, disappointed as the odds-on choice, fading in the deep stretch for her worst performance in over a year.
On the day, Rodriguez rode three more winners to further put his stamp on an amazing season as he leads the overall jockey standings by nearly 25 winners over his closest rival, Enrique Gomez.
In addition to the win aboard Aful Alibi, Rodriguez won the fourth race aboard Gerrys Sundayboots before winning the sixth race aboard JJ's Jaguar.
Rollickin Red, arguably one of the most talented 870-yard specialists in the country, is expected to go off as the post time favorite Sunday when he tries to defend his title in the New Mexico Horseman's Association Handicap, one of two stakes races on the closing day program today at SunRay Park & Casino.
Trained by Todd Fincher, Rollickin Red will make just his second start of the year when he breaks from the No. 6 post in the $65,000 event, which will go as the fourth race on a 10-race program. He will be ridden by his regular pilot Casey Lambert as he seeks his ninth win from 12 starts.
The son of Roll Hennessy Roll came back from a four-month layoff on April 13 to defeat allowance types at Sunland Park. Fincher used a similar layoff pattern last year when he sent Rollickin Red to a 2 1-2 length win in this same race on closing weekend last year.
Rollickin Red has amassed earnings over $251,000 while winning three stakes races in his brilliant career. He has been installed as the 5-to-2 morning line choice for the NMHA Handicap.
His main rival in his attempt to successfully defend his title could be Lester's Echo, coming off a pair of losses locally when facing thoroughbreds in longer events.
Trained by Owen Bringhurst and slated to be ridden by this meet's overall leading rider Macario Rodriguez, Lester's Echo had rattled off three straight wins this past spring at Sunland Park before coming to SunRay with mixed results.
On April 26, Lester's Echo was a strong second behind Roll On Diego in a 4 1-2 furlong optional claiming sprint. He came back and disappointed badly as the 3-to-5 favorite three weeks later on May 12, beating one horse in an optional claiming race won by Sugarintheevening.
Now back in with quarter horses, and with a big rider switch, Lester's Echo cannot be overlooked from the No. 4 post as the 7-to-2 third choice on the morning line.
The field, from the rail out, with riders and morning line odds for the NMHA Handicap, looks like this: My Big Chief, Fernando Rojas, 10-1; Cool Redalo, L.A. Perez, 9-2; Kokopellis Babycakes, Enrique Gomez, 8-1; Lester's Echo, Rodriguez, 7-2; KC Royal Flush, Martin Bourdieu, 3-1; Rollickin Red, Lambert, 5-2; Corona Dream, Adam Martinez, 12-1; Pakea Bay, Aldo Arboleda, 20-1.
The final stakes race of the day, the $75,000 San Juan County Commissioners Handicap, features a field of seven older thoroughbreds racing 1 1-8 miles. Last year's runner-up in the event, Imco Spirit, will try to break through in the race for trainer Henry Dominguez.
Imco Spirit, listed as the co-second choice on the morning line at odds of 3-to-1, will be ridden by Alfredo Juarez, Jr, and will break from post No. 5.
A 7-year-old Irish-bred son of Invincible Spirit, Imco Spirit has won eight times from 42 career starts, with earnings topping $463,000. He is coming off a poor effort in the Free Spirit Handicap last time out at Ruidoso Downs, and will be trying to break a 10-race losing streak for his owners Kirk and Judy Robison and Solitaire Stables.
First post for the closing race program is slated for 12:55 p.m.