ALBUQUERQUE — A total of 76 horses have been entered for nine state-bred stakes races this weekend at the Downs at Albuquerque, featuring both quarter horses and thoroughbreds in an annual event known as Lineage Weekend.
Purses for this two-day event have substantially increased this year, with over $543,000 on the line in five thoroughbred stakes races today, followed by four more stakes races on Sunday. Post time for both days is 1:30 p.m.
Today's $60,000 Lineage Classic, which will go as the eighth race on a nine-race card, will be highlighted by a wide-open field of seven, scheduled to run 1 and 1-16 miles.
The Joel Marr-trained On Down The Road is the lukewarm 3-1 morning-line favorite for the Classic. Drawn on the outside and slated to be ridden by his regular pilot Carlos Madeira, On Down The Road has been a model of consistency, having finished in the top three in 21 of 23 career starts, six of those races winding up in the winner's circle.
The 6-year-old son of Desert God ended a long losing streak with an off-the-pace score in the Land Of Enchantment Handicap last time out at Ruidoso Downs. Prior to that win, On Down The Road's most recent win was in Dec. 2012.
Two horses from the Land Of Enchantment Handicap, fourth-place finisher Proud Step and fifth-place finisher Thunder Agard, will be among the six rivals trying to score in the Classic.
Among the variety of contenders in the Classic, is Le Grande's Spirit, listed as the fourth choice on the morning line at 5-1.
Trained by Jose A. Gonzalez, the son of Le Grande Danseur ran a credible second behind Gotta Move over this course earlier this month. It was the first start in two months for Le Grande's Spirit, who will once again be ridden by Enrique Garcia.
Le Grande's Spirit should get a good trip from the No. 6 post. There appears to be a hint of speed on the inside with Proud Step and rider Jimmy Coates, along with another contender from the Marr barn, E Bar Way and jockey Ruby Gonzalez.
Le Grande's Spirit has won eight times from 35 lifetime starts and has picked up career earnings topping $174,000. His last win was three starts back at SunRay Park and Casino on May 13.
E Bar Way also cannot be ignored. The third choice on the morning line at 4-1, he was too far off the early pace to be a factor in each of his last couple starts. He figures to be sent along a bit earlier today in his first race over the Albuquerque strip.
Post time for the Classic is 5 p.m.
Other stakes races on tap today are the $60,000 Bank of Albuquerque Stakes for 3-year old fillies, followed by the $60,000 Carlos Salazar for older fillies and mares and the Albquerque Journal Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters going six furlongs.
The Classic will be followed up by $60,000 Casey Darnell Pony Express, a 5 1-2 furlong sprint race for older state-bred thoroughbreds.
Bettors taking part in the races at Albuquerque will be wise to pay close attention to Devons Ca Ching, the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the Pony Express, looking for his fourth win in his most recent five starts. A multiple stakes winner and earner of over $255,000 in his career, the Ray Ashord-trained Devons Ca Ching and rider Dusty Shepherd may be the best bet on today's entire card.
Sunday's stakes races at Albuquerque will feature all quarter horse races and is headlined by the $63,500 Lineage Championship, in which 10-year-old Miracle Snow will attempt to win his third straight stakes race this year coming off victories at SunRay Park and Casino and Ruidoso Downs.