African Rose, ridden by Alfredo Juarez Jr., inches clear of Cottagecupcake in the deep stretch on her way to winning Saturday’s 50,000 El Diario
African Rose, ridden by Alfredo Juarez Jr., inches clear of Cottagecupcake in the deep stretch on her way to winning Saturday's 50,000 El Diario Handicap at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino. (Courtesy of Coady Photography)

SUNLAND PARK — When Red Lead shows up for the races at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino, more often than not, the results have been quite good.

A winner in seven of his 14 races at Sunland Park and an exacta partner in five other starts over the course, Red Lead has run some of the best races of his career at the track.

That is precisely why the 8-year-old gelded son of 2000 Preakness Stakes winner Red Bullet has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite for today's $50,000 Curribot Handicap, slated to go as the 10th race on a strong 11-race program that begins at 12:15 p.m.

Red Lead, a Florida-bred son of Red Bullet, is coming off a dull seventh-place effort last time at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., for trainer Chris Hartman and owner Joey Davis. Prior to that, Red Lead scored his most recent win against Allowance Company last December at Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

Red Lead's last stakes win came in the 2013 renewal of the Curribot, which is run at a distance of one and one-sixteenth miles. He will be ridden today by Alfredo Juarez, Jr. from post No. 5 in the seven-horse field.

The likely pacesetter in the Curribot is the rail-sitter Smack Ridge.

The third choice on the morning line at odds of 7-2, Smack Ridge has won his last two starts for trainer Simon Buechler and Judge Lanier Racing Stables. A 6-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Cactus Ridge has posted wire-to-wire wins in each of his two starts at Sunland Park and will likely be sent to the lead under rider Dusty Shepherd.

The field for the Curribot, with a scheduled post time of 4:04 p.m., from the rail out, with riders and morning line odds, looks like this:

Smack Ridge, Shepherd, 7-2, For Cash, Aldo Arboleda, 6-1; Dry Summer, Carlos Madeira, 3-1; Tap The Gold, Irwin Rosendo, 10-1; Red Lead, Juarez, Jr., 5-2; Big Tall Paul, Miguel Fuentes, Jr., 15-1; Jaycito, Ry Eikleberry, 4-1.

'Rose' blooms in El Diario

In Saturday's stakes action, African Rose repelled the sustained challenge of Cottagecupcake before posting a two-length victory in the $50,000 El Diario Handicap under jockey Alfredo Juarez, Jr.

Trained by Justin Evans, African Rose dueled for the lead with Cottagecupcake through quick early fractions in the six and one-half furlong sprint, battling on the outside through a fast opening half-mile of 44.88 seconds.

Still dueling for the lead at the top of the lane, African Rose, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare by Bwana Charlie gradually inched clear of the previously undefeated Cottagecupcake inside the 16th pole and posted her sixth win from 12 starts over the Sunland oval.

Owned by Judge Lanier Racing Stables of Taiban, African Rose has now won 10 times from 23 career starts, increasing her lifetime earnings to over $240,000.

Despite her excellent record over the course, African Rose was still sent off at odds of 4.60-1, returning $11.20 to her backers.

"She got a lot out of her last race," Evans said of African Rose, who came back from a short layoff to beat allowance company here on Jan. 24. "It's good to see her getting back to her old self here."

For Evans, African Rose's win in the El Diario gives the meet's leading trainer his sixth stakes win of the season.

African Rose ran the six and one-half furlongs in a final time of 1:16.05.

Cottagecupcake, ridden by Carlos Madeira, did manage to save the place by a diminishing margin, suffering her first career defeat in four starts, beating Wine Thief for second by a half-length.

Following that one across the wire were Lunch Time Diva, Joyful Tap, Derby Hat, Diamond Lil Who and Funnyoushouldask.