SUNLAND PARK — A full field of New Mexico-bred older fillies and mares will take center stage today in a handicapping and wagering nightmare at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino, where the $85,000 Peppers Pride Handicap will go as the 10th race on a strong 11-race program.
Trainer Joel Marr, who conditioned the undefeated race-mare who retired in 2008 and for whom today's featured race is named, will saddle three contenders in the one-mile race. Each of Marr's runners bring something to the dance from a handicapping perspective.
Railsitter Desert Avenue, the fourth choice on the morning line at odds of 5-1, is coming off a well-beaten third-place effort last October at Zia Park in the $177,000 New Mexico Filly and Mare Cup. A three-time winner from 16 starts, Desert Avenue hasn't visited the winners' circle since Dec. 2, 2012, with only three starts to show for the past 14 months. Irwin Rosendo will pilot Desert Avenue for the first time today.
Soaring Dea, drawn right next to Desert Avenue and listed at 6-1 on the morning line, will be making her stakes debut for Marr coming off a second-place effort on Nov. 13 at Zia Park. The daughter of Desert God is a two-time winner from 17 starts who will be ridden for the first time today by Aldo Arboleda.
The Marr triumvirate in the Peppers Pride Handicap is completed by Piratz Stash, coming off a smashing sprint win on Dec. 21 over this track.
The daughter of Your Eminence has never finished worse than second in four starts over the course, but has also never raced further than six furlongs in her nine-race career. A three-time winner, Piratz Stash, will break from post No. 6, is scheduled to be ridden by her regular jockey Carlos Madeira and is the 9-2 third choice on the morning line.
Once a horseplayer has navigated their way through those three runners, they're still left to figure out what to do with the 7-2 morning-line favorite Western Way and the 4-1 second choice Gossip Dome.
Gossip Dome, trained by Chris Zamora, adores the Sunland racing surface. The daughter of Dome has earned four of her nine lifetime wins over this track. Slated to be ridden once again by Alfredo Juarez, Jr., Gossip Dome will be looking to end a four-race losing streak in the Peppers Pride. She figures to be prominent near the early lead from her No. 8-post in the starting gate.
Western Way, drawn immediately to her outside, was only beaten a neck when third last time out in a sprint race at Sunland Park against optional claiming company for trainer Jose A Gonzalez.
A 5-year-old daughter of The Way Home, Western Way will be ridden again by Enrique Garcia. A four-time winner from 24 starts, Western Way may actually be better around two turns and could shake loose on the lead.
From a handicapping perspective, there are more than enough options in the Peppers Pride. It's a baffling race which may wind up providing an equally baffling winner.
First post time for today's program is 12:15 p.m., with the Peppers Pride Handicap scheduled to go off at 4:04 p.m.
The field, from the rail out, with riders and post positions: Desert Avenue, Rosendo, 5-1; Soaring Dea, Arboleda, 6-1; St Clair, Ruby Gonzalez, 15-1; Grand Flame, Alejandro Medellin, 12-1; Park Lane Lass, Dusty Shepherd, 6-1; Piratz Stash, Madeira, 9-2; Dont Ask Ghost, Luis Rodriguez, 15-1; Gossip Dome, Juarez, 4-1; Western Way, Garcia, 7-2; Silver Streakn Gal, Adrian Ramos, 10-1.