FARMINGTON — While it might not have been the prettiest getaway from the gate, the end result was quite exceptional.
Unfettered remained unbeaten in two starts at Sunray Park and Casino, overcoming a bit of a tricky start to win Friday's $35,000 Inaugural Handicap by one and one half lengths under jockey Enrique Gomez.
The 5-year-old son of Rockport Harbor, who won the 2013 Sunray Park and Casino Handicap in just his third career start, took the widest trip of all in achieving the win.
Trained by Henry Dominguez and owned by the Solitaire Stables, Unfettered stalked the early pace set by Timeless Indy, with Warren's Knockout looming the danger midway down the backstretch.
Gomez steered Unfettered alongside the leaders after a half-mile in 46.42 seconds, then swept to the lead at the head of the lane.
From that point on, Gomez kept the Florida-bred to his task, crossing the wire in a final time of 1:17.41, easily defeating runner-up Smack Ridge -- who finished nearly four lengths in front of third-place finisher Warren's Knockout.
Unfettered won for the sixth time in his 10-race career. The winner's share of the $35,000 purse increases his total bankroll to nearly $177,000. The Inaugural was his fourth career stakes win, with earlier scores in the Bill Thomas Memorial Handicap at Sunland Park in El Paso, Texas last March and the Norgor Derby at Ruidoso in 2013.
Unfettered, sent off as the 4-to-5 favorite returned $3.60 to his backers at the windows.
Behind Warren's Knockout across the wire were He's A Bling, Timeless Indy, Dreamcatcher and Invasive Cocktail.
Smack Ridge, still winless in five starts in 2015, has run into his share of strong competition of late. Owned by the Judge Lanier Stables and trained by Dan Dennison, Smack Ridge has been no worse than second behind stakes winners Ol Winedrinker Who and Rebranded.
Racing resumes today at Sunray with a first post of 1:30 p.m.
The featured event, the $45,000 Russell and Helen Foutz Distaff, will go as the eighth race on the card.
Funnyoushouldask, looking to bounce back from a poor effort in her most recent start, has been installed as the 3-to-1 morning-line favorite in the Foutz.
Owned by Terrine Ransier and one of two in the Foutz trained by Jose R. Gonzalez Sr., Funnyoushouldask won the La Conjea Stakes last March at Sunland Park. The New Mexico-bred daughter of Reuben finished second in the Carlos Salazar Handicap at the Downs at Albuquerque on May 9.
Funnyoushouldask will break from post five in the 10-horse field.
Slated to be ridden once again by Luis Ramon Rodriguez, Funnyoushouldask has seven wins from 29 career starts, with earnings surpassing $326,000. She ran second in this race last year, finishing a half-length behind winner Tricky R.
The Foutz Distaff, at six and one half furlongs, is one of the most prestigious New Mexico-bred thoroughbred stakes races of the live-racing season at Sunray and throughout the state. Named for one of the most important families in racing and breeding operations in the state, the race has been won by such luminaries as Peppers Pride and Let The Musicbegin.
The Foutz Distaff is scheduled for 4:18 p.m.
Trainer Todd Fincher will be sending out Diabolical Dame, the 4-to-1 second choice on the morning line and winner of two straight races, including the Bank of Albuquerque Handicap on May 9.
A 3-year-old daughter of Diabolical and owned by Joe Dee Brooks, Scott Bryant and Derrol Hubbard, Diabolical Dame has never finished worse than second in nine lifetime starts. With earnings topping $152,000, she is looking for her second stakes victory.
Diabolical Dame drew the nine post in the Foutz and is scheduled to be ridden by Aldo Arboleda.
The field for the $45,000 Russell and Helen Foutz Distaff Handicap, with riders and morning-line odds are: Hot News Girl, Irwin Rosendo, 12-1; Tylers Dixie Chick, Alejandro Medellin, 10-1; Traders Pride, Elvin Gonzalez, 5-1; Soaring Dea, Isaias Cardenas, 8-1; Funnyoushouldask, Rodriguez, 3-1; Applelina, Frank Reyes, 8-1; Park Lane Lass, Nancy Summers, 12-1; Stormin Creek, Alfredo Juarez, Jr., 10-1; Diabolical Dame, Arboleda, 4-1; Back Seat Roll, Enrique Gomez, 8-1.
Notes on the program
Trainer Ken Grisham won a pair of races on the day, both of them ridden by Jose Luis Enriquez. The Grisham and Enriquez tandem scored in the first race with Good Job Honey, and again in the third race with Blazin Version.
Also with a riding double on the day was Aldo Arboleda, who won aboard Ranger Marini in the seventh race, and then again in the ninth aboard Canard.
Plays of the day
Each day during the Sunray season, track announcer Eric Alwan and paddock show host Steve Bortstein will offer up their best play on today's racing program.
Alwan's best bet comes in the eighth race, the featured $45,000 Russell and Helen Foutz Distaff Handicap. Alwan likes No. 9 Diabolical Dame, who's looking for her third straight win after a pair of sharp wins at the Downs at Albuquerque.
Bortstein's best bet comes in the seventh race, a six and one half furlong allowance sprint. Bortstein likes No. 2 Franklyenergized, who may get better with some extra racing distance this afternoon as well as getting the services of a sharp rider.