FARMINGTON — Two tough losses in a row for D E Lover had his connections a bit worried that maybe bad luck was taking over.
A stumble at the start not only toppled jockey Joe Martinez when D E Lover never had a chance as the 6-5 favorite in the New Mexico Breeders' Derby last March at Sunland Park. Then a slow break and a near-miss in the Getaway Stakes at that same track last month left his connections reeling.
Owner Tony Sedillo and the E B Racing Stables were rewarded with a bit more good fortune Tuesday afternoon when the New Mexico-bred son of So Long Birdie pulled clear in the lane on his way to a two and a half length score in the 45,000 Diné Stakes at SunRay Park and Casino.
Ridden perfectly by Miguel Perez, who had been the pilot on board for two of his first three lifetime victories before Tuesday, D E Lover rallied from off the pace between horses approaching the far turn, quickly overtaking early leader Storm Juan.
D E Lover briefly battled with Mays Or Mantle and jockey Enrique Gomez around the turn and to midstretch before the winner eventually drew clear, running the six and a half furlongs in 1:18.78.
Trained by Richard Sedillo, D E Lover picked up his fourth win from 10 career starts. The $27,000 winners share of the purse puts his lifetime earnings over $111,000.
"When I got to the front, we had a tough time getting past (Mays Or Mantle), but he's a real nice horse," Perez said after the race. "Once we got clear, he did it all on his own."
Tony Sedillo was quite happy with the change in fortunes for D E Lover.
"We'd had some real tough breaks down at Sunland," Sedillo said. "So this was a real nice turnaround for him."
D E Lover, sent off as the slight favorite at odds of 19-10 in the Diné, returned $5.80 to his backers.
Mays Or Mantle held on for the place, well clear of the rest of the field, headed by third-place finisher Desert Mystery and followed by Punch N Run, Grady Man Can, Storm Juan and Mancation.
On the day, jockey Enrique Gomez brought home three winners, while Aldo Arboleda and Alfredo Juarez, Jr. each rode two winners on the card.
In Tuesday's co-featured event, Forest Mouse labeled himself a prime contender for SunRay Park and Casino's closing day stakes, the San Juan County Commissioner's Handicap, with a rousing score under Gomez for trainer Henry Dominguez.
Forest Mouse, a 16-time winner from 35 lifetime starts, made a very splashy return to SunRay with a hard-fought, one-length score over Happy Toes and three other rivals in an allowance sprint race.
Forest Mouse won the San Juan County Commissioner's Handicap here in 2012, and has won four times in his last five starts. Owned by Shannon Purdom, Forest Mouse is a Kentucky-bred son of Telon Forest who has now earned in excess of $553,000 in his career.
Racing resumes on Friday with a full quarter horse program that has a first post time of 1:30 p.m.