ALBUQUERQUE— Tears of joy, as well as sadness, were shed in the winner's circle Saturday at Albuquerque Downs as Thunder Agard was celebrated for his victory in the $60,000 Lineage Classic.
Trained by Fred Danley, who has been mourning the passing of his wife Rita to cancer last week, Thunder Agard was a popular winner for those familiar with the Danley name, one of the most celebrated in the sport of horse racing.
Stretched out to a distance of 1 and 1/16 miles for the Classic, Thunder Agard, who saw his three-race win streak snapped in his last time out at Ruidoso Downs, and jockey Enrique Gomez rallied on the outside, winning in a narrow photo finish over post-time favorite On Down The Road and E Bar Way.
"This horse has just come such a long way," Danley said in the winner's circle. "He's been dealing with injuries since he was a 2-year-old. He's just such a hard running horse."
A large crowd greeted Fred and Thunder Agard in the winner's circle upon completion of the Lineage Classic, run in a final time of 1:45.24.
"I just want to thank everybody," an emotional Danley said after the race. "Everyone who came to (Rita's) services. Everyone's been so wonderful."
Thunder Agard's win is the ninth in his 27-race career and his first career stakes triumph, with the $33,000 winner's share increasing his lifetime earnings to more than $146,000.
Sent off at odds of 7.80-to-1, Thunder Agard returned $17.60 to his winning backers at the windows.
On Down The Road and jockey Carlos Madeira held the place over E Bar Way and jockey Ruby Gonzalez. Gotta Move finished fourth, followed by Spinning Touch, Proud Step and Le Grande's Spirit.
Lineage weekend continues today at Albuquerque Downs, with four stakes races for state-bred quarter horses headlining the nine-race program, which gets started at 1:30 p.m.
In other Lineage Day races on Saturday, Lakehouse Fun picked up her third straight win for trainer Henry Dominguez, overcoming a tardy break to win the $60,000 Carlos Salazar Stakes.
Owned by Kirk and Judy Robison, the 4-year-old daughter of Roll Hennessy Roll didn't get out with the rest of the field as the gates opened for the 6 1/2 furlong sprint, and was last in the field of six nearing the first quarter-mile.
Under the strong riding of Ry Eikleberry, the 4-to-5 post-time favorite Lakehouse Fun made up ground through the far turn, but was still spotting Funnyoushouldask a couple lengths at the head of the lane.
After a moderate half mile timed in 45.04 seconds, Lakehouse Fun found her best stride inside the final furlong, wearing down Funnyoushouldask just off the rail to narrowly prevail in a final time of 1:16.71.
Runner-up Funnyoushouldask was unlucky to lose. The J.R. Gonzalez Sr. trainee appeared to have things well in hand at the top of the lane, but settled for the place ahead of Strawberry Bling, with Soaring Dea, Attila's Honey and Swedish Goddess rounding out the official order of finish.
In winning the Salazar, Lakehouse Fun has now been victorious eight times in 22 starts. Her most recent victory came in the Lincoln Handicap at Ruidoso Downs last month. Prior to that, she was successful beating allowance rivals on the same track on June 5. She is a perfect 2-for-2 at Albuquerque Downs, winning the Chief Narbona Stakes last year.
Lakehouse Fun returned $3.60 to her winning backers at the windows. The $33,000 winner's share of the purse pads her career bankroll to nearly $250,000.
'Lowdown longshot winner
Longshot Midnight Lowdown, who entered at 18-to-1, romped to an easy, wire-to-wire score in the $60,000 Casey Darnell Pony Express under jockey Elvin Gonzalez.
Trained by J.R. Gonzalez Sr., the 5-year-old gelded son of Stormin' Lyon opened up on his rivals entering the far turn of the 5 1/2 furlong dash and won in a rapid time of 1:2.71, well ahead of his competition for his seventh win from 17 career starts.
Midnight Lowdown is a perfect 2-for-2 at Albuquerque Downs this season. Owned by William Rezzonico and Jeremy Trujillo, Midnight Lowdown won his most recent start here after a pair of efforts against mixed company at SunRay Park and Casino.
Chica's Minister was second with Thermal finishing third.
The $33,000 winner's share pads Midnight Lowdown's career bankroll to more than $205,000, which is almost as nice as the $38.60 return on investment for his backers at the windows.
Post-time favorite Devons Ca Ching was never a factor in the race, finishing seventh under Dusty Shepherd.
Lady Genius rolls to victory
Snapping a 4-race losing streak, Lady Genius finally got the better of her chief rival That's The Idea, posting an emphatic 3 1-2 length victory in the $60,000 Bank of Albuquerque Stakes under jockey Carlos Madeira.
A 3-year-old daughter of Quinton's Gold, Lady Genius had been beaten in each of her last two starts by That's The Idea, sent off as the overwhelming favorite in the 6 furlong test for sophomore fillies.
Madeira was content to lay third early behind That's The Idea. Lady Genius took command as the field straightened away in the lane and pulled clear to win as the fourth choice in the wagering at odds of nearly 9-to-1.
Lady Genius earned her sixth win from 12 career starts. Owned and bred by Mike and Bill Carson, Lady Genius picked up $33,000 with the win, bringing her lifetime earnings to more than $317,000.
That's The Idea was well clear of the rest of the field in holding second, ahead of Ilikewinnin, followed High Test Gal, Gold Rush Hush, Roll So Gold and Woodacouldadid.
Backers of Lady Genius at the windows were rewarded with a $19.80 return on their $2 investment.
Roll Out The Band romps
Jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr. and Roll Out The Band turned the $60,000 Albuquerque Journal Stakes into their own private procession, storming to a four-length victory for trainer Todd Fincher.
Owned and bred by Brad King and Dale Taylor, the 3-year-old son of Roll Hennessy Roll got his measure of revenge over the post-time favorite Mays Or Mantle, who defeated Roll Out The Band when they last met at Ruidoso Downs in the Road Runner Stakes on July 27.
Making his debut at Albuquerque Downs, Roll Out The Band inched clear on the lead shortly after the start and gradually grew clear to post an emphatic win over his rivals, finishing the 6 furlong race in 1:09.94.
Mays Or Mantle ran second all the way around the track, following the winner to the wire and finishing ahead of DE Lover for the place. Shining Source ran fourth, followed by Outlaw In Town, Grady Man Can, Dandy Don Who, Anziyan Nights and Reeser.
The win in the Journal is the sixth from 12 starts for Roll Out The Band, who picked up $33,000 for his efforts, increasing his career bankroll to more than $220,000.