RUIDOSO DOWNS — Eleven stakes races worth purse money over $1.24 million will be featured today and Sunday at Ruidoso Downs Racetrack and Casino during the two-day Zia Festival, honoring the best quarter horses and thoroughbreds who call New Mexico home.
Headlined by Sunday's $392,253 Grade 1 Zia Quarter Horse Futurity, the Zia Festival has become a showcase for not only top horse racing, but also celebrating the best in arts, crafts and entertainment all from the Land of Enchantment.
Racing fans will find no shortage of entertainment this weekend with strong fields competing for top prize money.
The Futurity, which will go as Sunday's 11th and final race on a strong program, is headlined by 5-2 morning line favorite Kiki Kiki. Conditioned by Gene Burden for owners Nahum Prieto and Joe Rios, Kiki Kiki is still looking for his first career stakes win, but looked sharp winning his trial for this event, held July 11, by nearly two lengths in a quick 19.68 second clocking for 400 yards.
The gelded son of Gonna Ro Sham Bo has won twice from five career starts, but was off the board in earlier stakes races. Kiki Kiki was seventh in the New Mexico Spring Futurity last April at Sunland Park before finishing sixth in the Mountain Top Futurity last month over this course.
Kiki Kiki will break from post No. 2 in the 10-horse Futurity and is scheduled to be ridden by his regular pilot Sergio Becerra, Jr.
The fastest qualifier for the Futurity is the race's second choice on the official morning line, De Loach, who will break from post No. 6 for trainer Blane Wood and jockey Ricky Ramirez.
Owned by Terry and Irene Stennett, De Loach has won twice from four lifetime starts, but looked exceptionally good winning his trial here earlier this month, posting a three-quarter of a length score in a time of 19.47 seconds.
The son of Jesse James Jr finished nearly a length behind Kiki Kiki when they faced each other in the New Mexico Spring Futurity.
Trainer Wes Giles, who saddled Trendi to an upset score last weekend in the Rainbow Futurity, will be looking to add another trophy to his collection when he sends two runners to the gate in the Zia Futurity.
Seeyalateralligator was beaten two lengths when third as the post-time favorite two starts back in the New Mexico Breeders' Futurity at SunRay Park and Casino. A two-time winner from three starts, the son of Winners Version, Seeyalateralligator won his trial heat for the Futurity in a final time of 19.67 seconds. He is scheduled to be ridden by one of the region's top quarter horse jockeys Martin Bourdieu. They will break from post No. 5 as the 9-2 third choice on the morning line.
Memory Flash is still looking for his first career win for Giles. Still, his second-place finish in the fastest trial behind De Loach was good enough to get into the field for the Futurity. Larry Gamez will be on board Memory Flash, who is listed as a 15-1 long shot breaking from post No. 8.
Post time for Sunday's Futurity is scheduled for 5:20 p.m.
Today, the Zia Festival features five stakes races, including the $198,975 Rio Grande Senorita Thoroughbred Futurity, for state-bred 2-year-old fillies.
Trainer Todd Fincher has more than a few options in the 10-horse Futurity, which will go as the 10th race at a scheduled post time of 4:54 p.m.
Fincher will saddle as many as six runners in the Futurity, including recent stakes winners Missing Reba and Diabolical Dame.
Missing Reba has won each of her last three starts, including an impressive two-length score in the Ken Kendrick Memorial Stakes at SunRay two starts back.
The daughter of Diabolical successfully handled the stretch out from 4 1-2 furlongs to today's distance of 5 1-2 furlongs in her trial race for the Futurity which she won by won by just a bit more than a length under Aldo Arboleda who will get back on board this afternoon. Missing Reba will break from post No. 3 and is listed at 7-2 on the morning line.
In addition to the Senorita Futurity, today's program also features the $139,493 Zia Quarter Horse Derby, headlined by Heza Wild Dragon, who will break from the inside post in a field of 10 shortliners racing 400 yards.
A son of Genuine Strawfly trained by Umberto Belloc, Heza Wild Dragon has never been off the board in five career starts, all over this course, including a win in last year's Mountain Top Futurity.
An earner of just over $197,000, Heza Wild Dragon is making his second start of the year in the Derby and is listed as the third choice on the morning line at odds of 4-1.
First post for both today's and Sunday's Zia Festival cards is scheduled for 1 p.m.