FARMINGTON — Things got awfully interesting at the head of the lane in Saturday's $45,000 Aztec Oaks at SunRay Park and Casino.
With the longest shot on the board Be My Desert Angel and jockey Aldo Arboleda on the lead and heavily-favored Lady Genius with jockey Carlos Madeira hot on her heels, Arboleda's charge appeared to veer over slightly while Madeira was making up ground on the outside.
Madeira took up briefly, causing Lady Genius to lose her momentum. Meantime, Arboleda got Be My Desert Angel straight again with about 100 yards to go before prevailing by a length and a half in a stunning renewal of the Oaks.
Trained by Lauren Fincher for owner Dale Taylor, Be My Desert Angel was making only her fourth career start in the Oaks, restricted to 3-year-old New Mexico-bred fillies. The daughter of Desert God had only recorded a maiden win last November at Zia Park before finishing second in an allowance comebacker over this course on May 10.
The resume of the winner wasn't nearly as spectacular as the runner-up.
Lady Genius, last year's champion 2-year-old filly as voted on by the New Mexico Horsemen's and Breeders' Association, had never finished worse than second in eight career starts, which included victories in three stakes races.
Trained by Dallas Barton for the Leach Racing Stables as well as Mike and Bill Carson, Lady Genius was making her first start of the year and appeared to have momentum on her side as the field reached the top of the lane.
But it was Be My Desert Lady, sent off at odds of 22.40-1, who prevailed in the Oaks, running the six and a half furlongs in 1:18.91 over a fast track on an overcast day in front of nearly 1,000 fans in attendance.
The winners' share of the purse brings Be My Desert Angel's career earnings to over $40,000 while returning $46.80 to her backers at the windows.
Lady Genius settled for the place, finishing nearly five lengths in front of third-place finisher Happy N Harmony. Following that one across the wire were Zasha, Woodacouldadid, Storm With Flair, Lookers Gold RF and Js Lucky Charm.
On the day, jockey Martin Bourdieu picked up a pair of winners, just one day removed from a record-breaking six winners he rode on the Friday program. Bourdieu scored aboard second race Dancin Tres for trainer Wes Giles, then in the fifth race aboard Jon Zimmerman-trained Fantabulous MQ.
'Jesse favored in Futurity
If Pretty Woody Jesse runs back to her impressive trial win here on May 9, the filly by Jesse James Jr will have more than validated herself as one of the leading state-bred juvenile fillies in today's $130,000 New Mexico Breeders' Futurity, the richest event on the SunRay stakes calendar and the featured event on a strong, nine-race program.
Owned by Yaneth Cabrera and trained by Javier Roman, Jr., Pretty Woody Jesse won her trial in a blazing fast time for 350 yards, getting the trip in 17.115 seconds. A two-time winner from three career starts, Pretty Woody Jesse has an experience edge on all but one of her rivals in the Futurity and retains the services of the only rider she's ever known, jockey Tanner Thedford.
Installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite, Pretty Woody Jesse will break from No. 7 post in the Futurity, which is scheduled to go to post at 2:42 p.m. as the fourth race on a card that gets underway at 1:30 p.m.
Perhaps Pretty Woody Jesse's biggest rival in the Futurity will be the Wes Giles-trained Seeyalateralligator.
Slated to be ridden by Larry Gamez, Seeyalateralligator may have been the most visually impressive winner in the five trials held here on May 9. The gelded son of Winners Version won easily pulling away in the final yards and clocking in with a time of 17.28 seconds.
Seeyalateralligator will break from post No. 4 in the Futurity and is listed as the co-third choice on the morning line at odds of 6-1.