FARMINGTON — The win scored by Norma Reyes' Smoke On The Water in Saturday's $105,000 Four Corners Futurity may not exactly have been gift-wrapped, but it certainly was fortunate.
Sent off as the second choice in the field of 10 2-year-old juvenile quarter horses, Smoke On The Water was awarded the win in the Grade 3 featured event after original first-place finisher Mt Spit Shine was disqualified for drifting in and causing interference to several of his rivals.
Ridden by Rick Oliver for Arizona-based trainer Monica Ortega, Smoke On The Water finished second along the rail, beaten three-quarters of a length by Mt Spit Shine, who was disqualified from the win and placed eighth.
For Smoke On The Water, it is his third win from four career starts. The Kentucky-bred son of Spit Curl Jess finished third in his trial race here on June 6 in the fastest qualifying heat won by Jazzsnspots.
Breaking from the rail, Smoke On The Water was never involved in the traffic fracas caused by Mt Spit Shine, who veered in shortly after the start of the 350-yard dash and caused interference to more than one horse in the race.
"The rail was the place to be," Oliver said after the race. "This horse ran so good for me, and I just kept riding to get in front of (Zoomin Jessie) to get second."
As it turned out, second was good enough. The disqualification of Mt Spit Shine gave Smoke On The Water the lion's share of the purse money. The $49,350 first prize money pushes his earnings to nearly $75,000.
Sent off at odds of 4.50-1, Smoke On The Water returned $11 to his backers.
The official order of finish, after the disqualification, found Zoomin Jessie to be second, followed by LD Red Hot Blue, Clear Winn, Jazzsnspots, Stel Worth it, Nmoceanfrontproperty, Mt Spit Shine, Chicks Deville and Lotta Dynasty.
Clear Winn, the post-time favorite after his impressive trial win here, failed to fire under Luis Gutierrez, Jr., and was never a threat.
In the co-featured Tommy "Duke" Smith Stakes, Jill Giles' Penny Snatching was an impressive, half-length winner under leading quarter horse jockey Martin Bourdieu.
Sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the 400-yard affair, Penny Snatchin dueled on the lead from the gate, put away AJ Hardwood nearing the wire and won convincingly for her second win from 10 lifetime starts.
Bred in New Mexico, the 3-year-old filly by Gone To The Mountain picked up $27,000 for her winning efforts, increasing her lifetime earnings to over $72,000.
Trained by Jill's husband Wes Giles, the victory for Penny Snatchin all but assures that Giles and Bourdieu will both be crowned as champions in their respective divisions when the meet ends today.
Giles, a perennial stalwart here at SunRay, has a commanding lead in the quarter horse trainer standings, while Bourdieu, coming off a leading quarter horse riding title at Turf Paradise last spring, will add another title to his string of successes this season.
Closing Day clash may be set
Trainer Henry Dominguez has two legitimate reasons to feel quite good about his chances of scoring a win in today's $75,000 San Juan County Commissioner's Handicap, the traditional closing day featured event at SunRay Park and Casino.
Kirk and Judy Robison's Isn't He Clever, a nine-time winner from 20 career starts and the defending champion of this race last year, will face another Dominguez trainee, Forest Mouse, a four-time winner over the local course and the winner of this same race in 2012.
Dominguez, who comes into the final day of the racing season here as the second leading thoroughbred trainer, clearly has the two favorites for today's renewal of the track's richest race for thoroughbreds, which begs the question, which of the two is the better horse?
Owned by Thomas Parnell, Forest Mouse has won four of his last five starts, including a recent tally over this course last month against one of his rivals, Happy Toes, on May 27. Listed as the second choice on the morning line at odds of 3-1, A Kentucky-bred 6-year-old son of Teton Forest with career earnings nearing $550,000, Forest Mouse is unbeaten over the course and has won nearly half of his 35 career starts. Slated to be ridden by Alfredo Juarez, Jr., Forest Mouse will break from post 5 in the six-horse field, which will race one and an eighth miles.
Isn't He Clever, who has racked up earnings topping $620,000, won this race last year by more than 16 lengths, will once again be ridden by Enrique Gomez. The 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Smarty Jones will break from post 2 and is the 2-1 morning line favorite to defend his title in the race, which will go as the 8th race on the closing day program.
In case either (or both) of the two heavyweights manage to falter in the Handicap, trainer Justin Evans may have the upsetter in Jaycito, who most recently beat Isn't He Clever in an allowance race at Ruidoso Downs.
Jaycito, who snapped a long losing streak in the process last time out, is the fourth choice on the morning line at odds of 4-1 and is scheduled to be ridden by Ricardo Jaime. The 6-year-old son of 1998 Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop has earned more than $446,000 in his 25-race career while winning five times from 25 starts.
The San Juan County Commissioner's Handicap is scheduled to go to post at approximately 4:18 p.m., and may well determine the unofficial title of "Horse of the Meet" at SunRay Park and Casino, where already a couple of titles have been wrapped up.
Coming into the closing day program, Evans and jockey Martin Bourdieu have already clinched titles in their respective divisions.
Bourdieu has an insurmountable lead in the quarter horse jockey division, which he leads by nearly a dozen over Esgar Ramirez and Larry Gamez. Evans, who has led the thoroughbred trainers division all meet long, has saddled 39 winners at the current season, nearly three times as many as Dominguez.
Still to be determined are titles for leading quarter horse trainer and leading thoroughbred jockey. Wes Giles has the advantage over Javier Roman, Jr. for the shortliners training category, while Elvin Gonzalez is nursing a slight lead over Juarez for top thoroughbred rider.
Today's co-featured New Mexico Horseman's Association Handicap, the 3rd race on the card, is an attractive 870-yard event worth a purse of $45,000. D E Wagons Strawfly, owned by Refugio Monarez, is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the event, and will be ridden by Adrian Ramos for trainer Richard Sedillo. A 7-time winner from 28 career starts, D E Wagons Strawfly has earned over $255,000 while notching stakes victories at Sunland Park and Ruidoso Downs.
The NMHA Handicap has a scheduled post time of 2:18 p.m., with the first race on today's curtain-call program set for 1:30 p.m.