Windy, winning weekend wraps up SunRay Park season

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The 2022 live season of horse racing at SunRay Park and Casino wrapped up on Sunday much like it began six weeks earlier, with swirling winds and clouds of dust.

At the end of the day's events, however, the season closed with a pair of mild upsets in two of the meet's most prestigious stakes races.

Here's a recap of closing weekend action at SunRay Park. 

Sly pulls clear of rivals in San Juan County Commissioners Stakes

As clouds of dust rolled across the track during the running of Sunday's $75,000 San Juan County Commissioners Stakes, it may have been easy to miss the eye-catching move from eventual winner Sly and jockey Francisco Amparan.

Racing about two lengths behind early leaders Tiger By His Tail and Zestful in the 1 1/8-mile event after an opening half-mile in 46.82 seconds, Sly rallied along the inside as did both Goddard and Sigalert as the field turned for home.

When the field emerged from behind a dust cloud spurred by 45 mile-per-hour gusts, Sly poked his head in front before inching clear in the final furlong, beating Zestful by 1 1/4 lengths in the traditional closing day featured race of the SunRay season.

Earning his third win of the year and fifth of his career, the Kentucky-bred son of Orb has a pair of victories earlier this year at Turf Paradise, sandwiched between a poor effort on April 2 in the Sunland Park Handicap. Trained by Martin Valdez-Cabral, Jr. and owned by Yuliana Yanez, Sly has now amassed earnings of more than $142,000.

Sent off at odds of more than 12-to-1, Sly returned $27 to his winning backers, while the $2 exacta to Zestful paid $666. Sly crossed the finish line in a final time of 1 minute, 50.56 seconds.

Goddard crossed the finish line third, just ahead of Limonite to round out the top four finishers. 

Jet N G, sent off as the mild post time favorite despite a four-race losing streak, was far back throughout under Alejandro Medellin and beat only one horse across the wire. 

For Valdez-Cabral, Jr., the win was especially meaningful, as it earned him his second consecutive training title at SunRay. Valdez-Cabral, Jr. was the fifth-leading trainer last spring at Sunland Park and has recently become one of the region's more dominant outfits in the state.

With nine training wins this season, Valdez-Cabral, Jr. edged Nancy Summers, James Cappellucci and Sherry Armstrong, who each scored eight wins for the title.

Corrina Corrina rallies to win Diné Stakes

Overcoming a troubled start and rallying under Joree Scriver, Corrina Corrina scored her first stakes victory Sunday, beating post time favorite Diabolical Storm in the $100,000 Diné Stakes at SunRay Park.

The New Mexico-bred daughter of Mr. Trieste, trained by Gary Cross for owner Derrick Jenkins was last early in the 6 1/2 furlong race after stumbling coming out of the gate. While the early leaders Massive Roar and Diabolical Storm were setting a fast pace up front, Scriver was making up ground with Corrina Corrina, moving into fourth place around the far turn.

Jockey Joree Scriver arrives at the winners circle with Corrina Corrina after winning the $100,000 Dine Handicap, Sunday, May 29, 2022 at SunRay Park and Casino.

As the field straightened for home, Corrina Corrina drew alongside Diabolical Storm and jockey Alfredo Juarez, Jr., putting her head in front near the wire before winning by three-quarters of a length in a final time of 1:16.57.

Corrina Corrina most recently finished second in an allowance race here on May 8. Before that, she finished second behind Bella Dona in a pair of stakes races last season at Sunland Park. Picking up her third win from nine career starts, Corrina Corrina increases her lifetime earnings to more than $196,000.

Sent off as the second choice in the wagering, Corrina Corrina returned $7.40 to her winning backers, while the $2 exacta with favored Diabolical Storm paid back $31.80.

Massive Roar settled for third while Bear Claw rounded out the top four finishers.

The loss aboard Diabolical Storm didn't cost Juarez, Jr. his third career riding title at SunRay Park. The multiple-stakes winning jockey has become one of the southwest's leading jockeys. In his 26-year career, Juarez has won more than 3200 races with earnings over $58 million.

Juarez, with 12 riding wins this season, edged Enrique Gomez (11) and Frank Reyes (10) for the SunRay thoroughbred jockey title. 

In the thoroughbred owners standings, Tom and Sandy McKenna's Judge Lanier Racing shared the title of leading owners with Terri Rust and Barton Ranch Stables, LLC, with four wins each, while Enriqueta Mendoza, with three wins on the season, won the title for leading quarter horse owner.

Pattys Saint wins Animas Stakes

The well-traveled Pattys Saint earned the 10th win of her career Saturday at SunRay Park and Casino, edging clear at the finish line to post an upset victory in the $75,000 Animas Stakes for trainer Heath Hillman and owner Robert Harrison.

Pattys Saint, ridden by Jesus Virgen, edges clear of her rivals as she wins the $75,000 Animas Stakes, Saturday, May 28, 2022 at SunRay Park and Casino.

The 4-year-old mare by Jess Got Easier, bred in Idaho and returning to the races off a seven month layoff, dueled for the lead right out of the gate with eventual runner-up Runaway Witch in the 400-yard affair, got the lead inside the final 100 yards and scored by a half-length. The final time of 19.17 seconds was just a shade off the track record for the distance (19.0) set by Texas Version on May 15, 2009.

Pattys Saint is in the midst of a four-race win streak which dates back to August 8, 2021 when she won the Oneida County Mixed Breed Derby in Malad, Idaho. Her most recent wins include the Pocatello Downs Distaff Challenge and an mild upset score in the Grade 1 American Quarter Horse Association Distaff Challenge Championship Stakes last October at Albuquerque Downs.

Pattys Saint has also achieved stakes success at the Sweetwater County Fair in Hot Springs, Wyoming where in 2020 she won the WHR Open Futurity

Sent off at odds of more than 6-to-1, Pattys Saint returned $14.80 to win while the $2 exacta with runner-up Runaway Witch paid $296.20. Jessapoliticalgirl finished third while post time favorite Outta Debt settled for fourth.

In the final standings for quarter horse leaders this season, Hector Aldrete ran away with the title, earning 12 wins on the season, five ahead of Amparan and six in front of Noe Garcia, Jr. 

Wes Giles and Raul Vega each saddled six winners this season to share the title of leading quarter horse trainer, two ahead of Guadalupe Munoz, Jr.

Live racing in the state of New Mexico is currently underway at Ruidoso Downs, which opened their season last weekend. The home of the All American Futurity, the world's richest quarter horse race, Ruidoso will race this season through Labor Day.

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