HOBBS — Much like people, racehorses are creatures of habit.
When people are used to winning over and over again, much like racehorses, it's hard to give that up.
Thus, when Mr. Wizard and jockey Dusty Shepherd rolled up on the outside of jockey Alfredo Juarez, Jr., and That's Who, a winner of six-straight races, in the stretch of Zia Park and Casino in Sunday's $180,480 New Mexico Classic Championship, nothing was going to be given away easily.
Mr. Wizard, sent off as the 4.10-to-1 third choice on the tote board when the gates opened, proved best in deep stretch to earn a hard-fought head victory in the one mile event restricted to state-bred older thoroughbreds.
Always in contention under Shepherd, the Dallas Barton-trained son of Premeditation was never far back of leaders That's Who and Dueling Dom, setting a moderate early pace of 48.18 seconds for the first half-mile.
Dueling Dom gave way at the head of the lane, and the stage was set for a stirring finish between the red-hot That's Who and the eventual winner. Mr. Wizard proved best in the final yards, crossing the wire in a final time of 1 minute, 36.71 seconds. That's Who settled for the place, finishing well-clear of the rest of the field.
Mr. Wizard is a 4-year-old gelding, bred by Mike and Suzanne Carson and owned by W.D. Carson, Sr., M.H. Carson and Leach Racing LLC. Sunday's win improves his lifetime record to five wins from 26 starts, and the $108,000 first place purse money increases his career earnings to $260,000.
Last year's Classic Championship winner On Down The Road settled for a well-beaten third. Crossing the wire in front of him were Jenson's Miracle, Desert Burn, Dueling Dom, Rig's Runner, Spinning Touch, Rey Del Mar and Playin Tough.
Horseplayers who backed Mr. Wizard in the Classic Championship were rewarded with a $10.20 return on their investment.
In other notable stakes action on Sunday:
Iplaytricks defended her title in the $170,120 New Mexico Classic Championship for fillies and mares, proving an easy winner for trainer Joel Marr and jockey Aldo Arboleda.
Owned by Michael Stinson, Iplaytricks dueled for the lead down the backstretch with eventual runner-up Western Way before putting her away approaching the head of the lane. The daughter of Desert God drew off to win by four and one-half lengths, justifying her status as 1-to-10 favorite and improving her lifetime record to 10 wins from 24 starts and increasing her lifetime earnings to over $516,000.
Iplaytricks ran the mile in a final time of 1:37.59.
Attitude E Racer became only the second horse in the history of the New Mexico Classic Cup to win the Sprint Championship twice, taking down top honors when inching clear in the final yards over longshot Grouchy Apadana in late stretch.
Trained by Joel Marr and ridden to victory by Ken Tohill for owner Michael Stinson, Attitude E Racer won the sprint last year as a 23-to-1 longshot, but his success in this still race didn't convince many among the crowd at Zia Park, who allowed the son of Desert God to go off at odds of 10-to-1.
Attitude E Racer, who picked up his sixth lifetime win on Sunday, was never far back of a quick early pace when dueling for fourth passing the half-mile pole after a quick internal fraction of 43.52 seconds for the first half-mile.
Tohill angled Attitude E Racer to the outside while making up ground at the head of the lane before inching clear inside the final furlong to win by one and three-fourth lengths, crossing the wire in a final time of 1:09.26.
The win increased Attitude E Racer's lifetime earnings to $451,000 while his victory was worth $22 to his winning backers.
Mitey Moon, winless in her last three starts, finally got into the winners' circle when posting a mild upset in the $288,830 New Mexico Classic Futurity for 2-year-old quarter horses.
A daughter of First Moonflash who hadn't won since she broke her maiden in her career debut last May at Ruidoso Downs, she took advantage of a fast break from her inside post, inched clear midway down the lane and held off the late rally of Osaka Moon to win by a neck under Jaime Leos.
Trained by Juan Gonzalez for owner Debra Jean Laney, Mitey Moon was sent off at odds of 9.20-to-1, returning $20.40 while running the 400 yards in 19.63 seconds.
Moonifisant, the 19-to-10 post time favorite under jockey Tanner Thedford, settled for the place, while morning line favorite Kaydns Krusader, sent off at odds of 4.20-to-1, had a rough trip under Esgar Ramirez and wound up finishing last in the 10-horse field.