FARMINGTON — Today's $35,000 La Plata Stakes, the featured race on a live program at Sunray Park and Casino that starts at 1:30 p.m., may be the most difficult handicapping challenge seen this season.
The 400-yard dash for 3-year-olds and up has a field of seven runners, a majority of which have compelling storylines.
Three of the runners, including the 2-to-1 morning-line favorite, are bringing win streaks into the race, while another hasn't won a race in 513 days.
Ill Stop The World, owned and trained by Alfredo Sanchez and scheduled to be ridden by Esgar Ramirez, is the 2-to-1 morning-line favorite. The 5-year-old, New Mexico-bred son of Fdd Dyansty has won each of his two starts this year at the Downs at Albuqerque.
Ill Stop The World is also a winner over the local course. He has been no worse than second in his two starts at Sunray, and has amassed earnings of more than $205,000 with five wins in 18 career starts.
Ill Stop The World will break from post position four in the La Plata, which has a scheduled post time of 4:18 p.m.
Tf Featured Effort, listed at 6-to-1 on the morning line, is the top earner in the field.
Owned by Heysol Howlet and trained by Jaime Dominguez, Tf Featured Effort brings an impressive record of seven wins from 30 career starts with lifetime earnings of more than $313,000. But his last victory came in March 2014, when he scored as the favorite in the West Texas Maturity at Sunland Park in El Paso, Texas. He's currently in the midst of an eight-race losing streak and will be attempting to undo that spell while making his debut over the Sunray strip.
Tf Featured Effort will break from post position three and is scheduled to be ridden by Jose Luis Enriquex — one of the top quarter horse riders this season.
Alis Jumpn, also on the morning line at odds of 6-to-1, is the defending La Plata Stakes champion.
Trained by Adam Tapia and slated to be ridden by Martin Bourdieu, Alis Jumpn is a perfect 4 for 4 at Sunray Park. In all, the 5-year-old has won 11 times from 19 starts, including her most recent pair at Sunland Park on March 27 and at Albuquerque on May 15.
Alis Jumpn, owned by Eloy Humberto Pena, will break from post position five in the La Plata.
Fly Thru The Fire and Celebrar are both relatively lightly raced candidates for the win.
Fly Thru The Fire was the winner of two straight races to begin his career in 2013 at Ruidoso Downs. The California-bred son of Walk Thru Fire didn't race for nearly two years before coming back to win at Albuquerque last May.
Last time out, Fly Thru The Fire finished eighth in the Grade 3 Higheasterjet Handicap at Ruidoso.
Scheduled to be ridden for the first time by Cesar Gomez for trainer Justin Joiner, Fly Thru The Fire will break from the rail and has been installed as the co-second choice at 3-to-1 on the morning line.
Celebrar, who will break from the outside post, has won three times from six career starts. The Texas-bred son of One Famous Eagle has won each of his last two starts, working his way up the allowance ranks for trainer Estevan Ramirez.
This Fire Is Cold, who Celebrar beat in his last race, came back earlier this month to win the Animas Quarter Horse Stakes at Sunray.
Slated to be ridden by Alejandro Medellin, and also listed at 3-to-1 on the track's morning line, Celebrar has earnings of more than $31,000 for owner Isaac Balderrama Ruiz.
Jo Jo Hot Legs and Bp Takem Away, the longest shots in the La Plata field at 10-to-1 and 15-to-1, respectively, also come with their share of storylines.
Jo Jo Hot Legs, a 4-year-old, Texas-bred son of Executive Menace, is scheduled to be ridden by Emilio Tapia, who was aboard for his most recent win last March at Rillito Downs in Tuscon, Ariz.
A five-time winner from 16 starts, Jo Jo Hot Legs, hasn't raced since finishing second in his last start at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. They will break from post position six.
Bp Takem Away won his most recent start earlier this month when debuting at Sunray for trainer Luis Hernandez. The Oklahoma-bred 4-year-old has three wins from 20 career starts and will be piloted by Hector Aldrete from post position two.
Plays of the day
Each day during the current racing season, Sunray Park and Casino track announcer Eric Alwan and paddock show host Steve Bortstein offer their best bets for the day's program.
Alwan's best bet comes in the aforementioned La Plata Stakes, where he likes No. 5 Alis Jumpn, who's a perfect 4 for 4 over the course and be will be ridden by one of the best quarter horse jockeys in the region.
Bortstein's best bet comes in the fourth race, an 870-yard event in which he likes No. 5 Mo Rock, who is also boasting a perfect record over the course and attracting the attention of a hot rider in Alejandro Medellin.
Steve Bortstein hosts "First Sports" and "The Fast Track" on Fox Sports 1340 AM and 93.9 FM and on iHeartRadio. He serves as paddock show host at SunRay Park & Casino and is a voting member of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Follow him @fox1340am on Twitter.
Steve Bortstein hosts "First Sports" and "The Fast Track" on Fox Sports 1340 AM and 93.9 FM and on iHeartRadio. He serves as paddock show host at SunRay Park & Casino and is a voting member of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Follow him