FARMINGTON — Sometimes, it is just that easy.
Isn't He Clever, the most lopsided of favorites on the toteboard, made even those paltry 1-to-9 odds seem like a theft when he posted a spectacular 16 3/4 length score in the $75,000 San Juan County Commissioners Handicap, the traditional closing day featured event in front of a crowd of over 2,200 fans on Sunday at SunRay Park & Casino.
On a day in which the track celebrated champion trainers and riders, it was only fitting that Henry Dominguez, the leading overall trainer, would team up with Enrique Gomez, this season's top thoroughbred jockey with the most impressive performance of the season as the son of Smarty Jones put away his early pace rival Imco Spirit approaching the final turn, then proceeded to turn the one and one-eighth mile event into a private show, drawing off to devastating victory, his seventh win from 15 career starts.
Isn't He Clever was making his SunRay Park & Casino debut in the Commissioners Handicap, but he showed early on that he would handle the footing and the sometimes tricky tight turns.
"I wasn't too worried about the course for him," Dominguez said about Isn't He Clever after the race. "We finally got him figured out that he likes a hard, dirt track. This race put him in the right spot."
Isn't He Clever was hand-ridden to the wire, finishing one second off the track record, set by Line Gauge in 1999. Isn't He Clever clocked in with a final time of 1 minute, 49.95 seconds as he toyed with his five rivals.
Isn't He Clever earned $45,000 for the win, increasing his lifetime earnings to over $542,000 for owners Kirk and Judy Robison. For his many supporters at the windows, this was probably the easiest and least dramatic $2.20 reward for being right about a horse in some time.
Casa De Cambio, also trained by Dominguez, checked in second in the Commissioners Handicap, followed by Super Candy, Imco Spirit, Vamoose and Rock Hard Bunny. Gregor was scratched earlier in the day.
Earlier in the day, odds-on favorite Rollickin Red ran his lifetime record to nine wins from 12 starts with a dramatic score over Corona Dream in the $65,000 New Mexico Horseman's Association Handicap.
Trained by Todd Fincher for the Rollickin Red Partners and ridden to victory by his regular pilot Casey Lambert, Rollickin Red, the 9-to-10 favorite, dueled the length of the stretch with the longest shot on the board in the NMHA Handicap, eventually winning by a hard-fought head going 870 yards in a swift 45.1 seconds.
The son of Roll Hennessy Roll has now won three straight races, and in the process, he successfully defends his crown in this race, which he won last year in devastating fashion.
"I was surprised to see the other horse alongside me," Lambert said after the race. "He really kept my horse busy all the way to the wire."
Corona Dream, sent off at 32-to-1 odds, wound up well clear of the rest of the field, but his efforts were for naught against the very talented New Mexico-bred.
Rollickin Red returned $3.80 to his supporters while racking up $39,000 for his owners. That purse money pads his lifetime earnings to over $290,000.
Corona Dream was followed across the wire b KC Royal Flush, Pakea Bay, Lester's Echo, Kokopellis Babycakes, Cool Redalo and My Big Chief.
While the local racing scene shuts down here for the calendar year, many horsemen will continue to train and stable here before shipping either to the Downs at Albuquerque or Ruidoso Downs. The Albuquerque racing season begins on Aug. 2 while Ruidoso's current season will run through Labor Day.
Macario Rodriguez wound up with three winners on the day, further putting a stamp on his amazing season in which he won titles for both leading overall jockey and top quarter horse jockey.
"This has been a real blessing, getting to work with some amazing people," Rodriguez said when being honored for his accomplishments at the conclusion of the final day's races. "I've had great people on my side all season, and they deserve a lot of the credit for all the success."
Henry Dominguez won the title for both leading overall trainer as well as top thoroughbred trainer, while Wes Giles won the title for leading quarter horse trainer.