FARMINGTON — Trainer Justin Evans started out the 2014 live racing season at Sunray Park and Casino season in much the same fashion as he wrapped up the Sunland Park season near El Paso, Texas.
Evans saddled two winners on Friday's opening day program at Sunray, including a 1-2 finish in the $35,000 Inaugural Handicap as Warren's Knockout raced gate-to-wire under jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr., holding off the stubborn late rally of Happy Toes and jockey Elvin Gonzalez.
Warren's Knockout, sent off as the 4-to-5 favorite in the Inaugural in front of an enthusiastic opening day crowd of more than 1,500 spectators, sat chilly behind dueling leaders Cockeyed Cowboy and Wiredfortwotwenty through a moderate opening quarter-mile of 23.05 seconds.
Juarez moved Warren's Knockout onto equal terms midway through the far turn and gradually began to inch clear as the field hit the top of the lane.
Happy Toes, content to lag a bit farther off the early pace, charged up on the outside of the eventual winner in the final yards, but couldn't get past the stubborn Warren's Knockout, who completed the six and one-half furlongs in 1:16.39 seconds.
"I might not have had him as tight as I wanted him," Evans said of the winner. "But (Happy Toes) always runs his race. He likes the course, and so I was pleased with his effort as well."
Warren's Knockout, a 6-year-old California-bred gelding by Stormed, returned $3.60 to his backers at the windows. Behind Happy Toes across the wire were Chasing The Heat, Wiredfortwotwenty, Cockeyed Cowboy and Whipstock. Spanish Jazz was scratched earlier in the day.
With the win, Warren's Knockout and owner Len Schermer earned $21,000, increasing the horse's career earnings to more than $411,000 while picking up his 10th win from 33 lifetime starts.
Funnyoushouldask headlines Foutz Distaff
Terrine Ransier's Funnyoushouldask will be looking to rebound off a tough loss at the hands of her chief rival Tricky R in last month's La Coneja Handicap at Sunland Park when they face each other again in today's $45,000 Russell and Hellen Foutz Dustaff Handicap, for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares racing six and one-half furlongs.
Trained by J.R. Gonzalez Jr. and scheduled to be ridden again by Alejandro Medellin, Funnyoushouldask narrowly lost to Tricky R last time out, and will break from the outside post in the 8-horse field.
Tricky R, a winner of four straight races for trainer Camie Telford, will break from the rail and will again be ridden by Nancy Summers.
A 7-year-old mare by Favorite Trick, Tricky R has won 11 times from 23 starts and has scored twice over this track.
The field of 8 for the Foutz Distaff Handicap, from the rail out, with riders and morning line odds: Tricky R, Summers, 3-1; Gossip Dome, Alfredo Juarez Jr., 9-2; CC Manor, Miguel Fuentes Jr., 12-1; Soaring Dea, Elvin Gonzalez, 10-1; Western Way, Enrique Garcia, 7-2; Swedish Goddess, Aldo Arboleda, 8-1; Applelina, Enrique Gomez, 20-1; Funnyoushouldask, Medellin, 5-2.
First post today is at 1:30 p.m. with post time for the Foutz, the eighth race on the 9-race card, slated for 4:18 p.m.