Dramatic finishes headline rich weekend at SunRay Park

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A pair of dramatic finishes in quarter horse futurity races led to some intriguing results Sunday afternoon at SunRay Park and Casino.

And on Saturday, the longest shot on the board pulled off an upset score in thoroughbred stakes action.

Here's a recap of the weekend horse racing action at SunRay Park.

Dead heat for victory in Four Corners Futurity

Brothers Adrian and Christian Ramos finished in a dead heat atop their respective mounts in the $75,000-added Grade 3 Four Corners Futurity Sunday afternoon at SunRay Park and Casino when Kj Wicked Wanda and Mr Red White N Blue couldn't be separated at the conclusion of the 350-yard dash.

Adrian, who rode Kj Wicked Wanda, sent off as the 2.40-to-1 second choice in the wagering, overcame a slightly tardy break from the gate before dueling with younger brother Christian aboard Mr Red White N Blue. Those two raced as a pair on the near side of the track, while eventual third-place finisher La Brujita Mayor rallied on the outside under Sergio Dominguez.

Brothers Adrian Ramos (left, aboard Kj Wicked Wanda) and Christian Ramos (right, aboard Mr Red White N Blue) finished in a dead heat for the win in the $75,000-added Four Corners Futurity at SunRay Park and Casino, Sunday, May 22, 2022.

At the finish line, both Kj Wicked Wanda and Mr Red White N Blue were inseparable, after multiple reviews and photo finish cameras determined the two crossed the wire together, resulting in a rare dead heat for the victory in a quick final time of 17.47 seconds.

A 2-year-old, Arizona-bred daughter of Apollitical Spirit, Kj Wicked Wanda earned her second straight win in the Four Corners Futurity after winning her trial heat earlier this month for trainer Wes Giles. Owned by John Lee, Wanda Kathy Lee and Ruben I. Mares, Kj Wicked Wanda earned $30,000 for her efforts, increasing her career earnings to more than $33,400 after three lifetime starts.

More:Veteran jockey Ramos qualifies fastest horse for Ruidoso Futurity on day one of trials

Mr Red White N Blue, who qualified for the Four Corners Futurity when finishing second in his career debut behind the race's fastest qualifier Lake Havasu, earned his first career win. Owned by Triple R Racing LLC and trained by James Gonzalez III, the son of Jet Black Patriot also earned the winner's share of $30,000 with the victory.

The 28-year-old Adrian, a winner of last year's All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs aboard Kj Desperado and winner of nearly 550 career races, earned his third riding win of the current SunRay season with the win aboard Kj Wicked Wanda. Christian, 18, earned his fourth riding win of the season aboard Mr Red White N Blue and earned his first graded stakes victory. The younger Ramos recently relocated to New Mexico after riding this past winter at Aqueduct in New York.

Sent off at odds of 8.60-to-1, Mr Red White N Blue returned $8.20 to his winning backers while those who wagered on KJ Wicked Wanda received $3.80 for their winning investment.

As is the case whenever there is a dead heat, there were multiple payouts in exotics wagers, as the $2 exacta wagers made with Mr Red White N Blue finishing ahead of KJ Wicked Wanda returned $27.40, while wagers made with the reverse outcome also paid back, with a return of $24.60.

Post time favorite Lake Havasu showed early speed in the race, but couldn't match strides in the final yards, finishing fifth under jockey Omar Iturralde.

Major Game proves best in New Mexico Breeders Futurity

Fending off multiple challenges from his outside post, Major Game and jockey Sergio Becerra, Jr., prevailed in a thrilling renewal of the $120,000-added New Mexico Breeders' Futurity on Sunday, giving trainer Eric Valenzuela his biggest win of the season.

Major Game, with jockey Sergio Becerra, Jr. aboard, crosses the wire ahead of his rivals in the $120,000-added New Mexico Breeders Futurity, Sunday, May 22, 2022 at SunRay Park and Casino.

Owned by Jaime Perez, Andres Estrada and J. Santos Espinoza, Major Game broke alertly from the outside gate in the 10-horse dash, dueled briefly for the lead with several contenders, but never wavered in the final yards, crossing the wire a neck in front of Sheza Ahotmess and rider Gerardo Vera in a swift time of 17.35 seconds for 350 yards.

Major Game, a son of Gronkowski bred by Mike Abraham, picked up his first career stakes victory with the win on Sunday. He qualified for the race by winning a trial heat earlier this month. Prior to that, Major Game was third in the $313,000 New Mexican Spring Futurity last month at Sunland Park.

Valenzuela, who topped the trainer standings at the recently concluded Sunland Park season with 18 winners, picked up his second training win this season at SunRay with Major Game. 

Sent off at odds of more than 2-to-1, Major Game returned $6.60 to his winning backers. Sheza Ahotmess held strong for second, with the $2 exacta pairing the top two finishers paying back $18.60.

Major Game earned his third win in four career starts, and the $72,000 winner's share of the purse increased his bankroll to more than $115,000. The New Mexico Breeders Futurity is SunRay Park's richest race for any breed this season.

Jess Emotions finished third with Flash Divine rounding out the top four finishers.

Shugs Charlie pulls off upset in Samora Memorial Stakes

Sent off as the longest shot on the board, Shugs Charlie pulled off an upset win in Saturday's $75,000 Toni Samora Memorial Stakes at SunRay Park and Casino, ending a seven-race losing streak and earning her first career stakes win.

Owned by the duo of Humberto and Karla Munoz and trained by Filiberto Quiroz, Shugs Charlie took advantage of a slow early pace, battling on the front end to the outside of rival Cleopatras Charge as the field raced the first half mile in 47.68 seconds.

As the field of six made their way into the far turn, jockey Enrique Gomez darted to the lead with Shugs Charlie before being taken on by post time favorite Raneem and jockey Alfredo Juarez, Jr. Those two raced as a pair to the finish line, with Shugs Charlie edging clear in the final yards to win by three-quarters of a length, giving Gomez his fourth winner on the Saturday card.

Sent off at odds of more than 10-to-1, Shugs Charlie returned $22.20 to her winning backers while racing 6 1/2 furlongs in a final time of 1 minute, 19.46 seconds.

The New Mexico-bred daughter of Shame On Charlie snapped a losing streak dating back to last September, when she won an allowance race at Albuquerque Downs. In her most recent start, she was a well-beaten third in the $100,000 Peppers Pride Handicap at Sunland Park on March 6.

The victory was worth more than $54,000 to her winning connections, as Shugs Charlie now has career earnings approaching $160,000. 

Raneem, sent off at 2-to-1, held on to the second place spot, just a nose ahead of Cleopatras Charge and jockey Joree Scriver, completing a $2 exacta which was worth $49.60. Girona, also trained by Quiroz and ridden by Jose Vazquez, rounded out the top four finishers.

The big day from Gomez puts him squarely in contention for the title of leading thoroughbred rider. With nine wins this season, Gomez is just one behind Juarez in the standings heading into the final days of the racing season. 

Live racing resumes on Friday with a 10-race program set to begin at 2:15 p.m. The final weekend of the season is highlighted by a trio of stakes races.

Saturday's $75,000 Animas Stakes is for older filly and mare quarter horses racing 400 yards, followed by a pair of Sunday stakes races, including the $100,000 Diné Stakes for older New Mexico-bred thoroughbreds racing 6 1/2 furlongs and the $75,000 San Juan County Commissioners Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. 

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.