ALBUQUERQUE — Sent off as the longest shot in the field of nine, Desert Gambler posted a major upset in today's $60,000 Carlos Salazar Stakes at the Downs at Albuquerque.
It probably wasn't the way trainer Todd Fincher drew up the race when he entered both the winner and eventual third-place finisher and overwhelming post-time favorite, Diabolical Dame.
Owned by Jon Hogg, Desert Gambler benefited from the perfect trip under jockey Gonzalo Nicolas. Jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr., aboard Diabolical Dame, nearly overcame the worst possible trip before being overtaken late in the stretch.
The winner, a 4-year-old filly by Desert God, broke alertly from the gate and battled for the lead with Indian Tiva through moderate fractions. She took a short lead into and through the far turn, while stablemate Diabolical Dame — who was sandwiched at the start — was forced to sit behind a wall of horses down the backstretch. Eventually, Diabolical Dime found a seam at the head of the lane and wrestled the lead from Desert Gambler.
Nicolas wasn't done with Desert Gambler, who re-rallied on the outside of Diabolical Dame, eventually drawing clear in the final yards to post a near two-length upset score.
"We got a clean break, and I know that (Desert Gambler) liked to be on the lead, so we had the right trip," Nicolas said. "She didn't give up in the stretch."
Sent off at odds of 66.80-to-1, Desert Gambler ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in one minute, 18.07 seconds and returned $135.60 to win. The victory is her fourth from 16 career starts, padding her lifetime bankroll to more than $175,000. She was a winner here two starts back on June 27 against allowance company, racing a mile before finishing eighth in the Albuquerque Distaff Handicap on July 23.
Prior to her victory in the Salazar, Desert Gambler had earned minor purses in stakes races in 2014, including the Eddy County Stakes at Zia Park, as well as the Red Hedeman Mile and Enchantress Stakes at Sunland Park.
My Bikini Fell Off, trained by Bart Hone and ridden by Ry Eikleberry, closed well to snatch second place from the post-time favorite. Behind Diabolical Dame across the wire were Tricky Trix, Renwed Vows, My Dandy Girl, Stormin Creek, Indian Tiva and Stormy Day.
'Strawfly leads Moonflash Maturity
Sunday's 10-race program at the Downs at Albuquerque is headlined by the first running of the $75,000-added First Moonflash Maturity, limited to state-bred older quarter horses racing the classic distance of 440 yards.
Yaneth Cabrera's Klassic Strawfly, a hard-hitting 10-year-old gelded son of Genuine Strawfly, is the 3-to-1 morning-line favorite in the field of 10 runners.
A winner of three straight races, including the trial for this spot held here on Aug. 14, Klassic Strawfly is trained by Ronald Stephens and is slated to be ridden by Isaias Cardenas.
Klassic Strawfly is a 14-time winner from 91 lifetime starts, including an impressive score in the May 27 Jimmy Drake Stakes at SunRay Park and Casino. An earner of more than $412,000 in his career, Klassic Strawfly is drawn in post 4 for the Maturity, which will go as the fifth race on the card and has a post time of 3:10 p.m.
Trainer Juan Torres will send out the 4-to-1 second choice on the morning line Mister Brooks. Owned by Juan Esquivel, Jr., the 5-year-old gelded son of Brookstone Bay won his trial heat here in a final time of 21.45 seconds, while earning his fourth lifetime victory from 19 starts.
Jose Ortiz will be back aboard Mister Brooks, who is drawn in post 6.
The field for the First Moonflash Maturity, with riders and morning-line odds: Salt The Rim, Jimmy Coates, 12-1; Major Moonflash, Adrian Ramos, 8-1; Dungarees Version, Benito Baca, 10-1; Klassic Strawfly, Cardenas, 3-1; Fire Stones, Martin Bourdieu, 8-1; Mister Brooks, Ortiz, 4-1; Jess Bordeaux, John Valenzuela, 10-1; Heza Wild Dragon, Jose Enriquez, 5-1; Bl Corona, Edgar Martinez, 8-1; June Bug Junior, Raul Gutierrez, 12-1.
First post time Sunday at the Downs at Albuquerque is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
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.