Opening weekend in the books at SunRay Park and Casino

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − Opening weekend for quarter horse and thoroughbred racing at SunRay Park and Casino featured three stakes races for some of the top equine performers in the region.

Here's a look back at some of the highlights from the first three days of the racing season.

Flaxy Lady hangs on to win Foutz Distaff

In a thrilling finish to Sunday's $100,000 Russell and Helen Foutz Distaff Handicap, 15-to-1 longshot Flaxy Lady got first jump to the lead entering the top of the lane and held off the late rally from unlucky post time favorite Corrina Corrina to earn an upset score.

Ridden to victory by Miguel Perez for trainer Andres Gonzalez and owners Amanda Sweeten and Heber Deyta Melendez, Flaxy Lady snapped a 10-race losing streak with her victory in the Foutz. The daughter of Firejack raced midpack down the backstretch while Indian Fireblossom and Bossy Baby controlled the tempo up front through an opening half-mile in 47.99 seconds.

Perez guided Flaxy Lady towards the leaders on the far turn and quickly made up ground, taking command at the head of the stretch. She opened up a clear lead with less than a furlong to go, but just held off the late charge of Corrina Corrina to win by a nose, racing 6 1/2 furlongs in a time of 1 minute, 18.7 seconds.

Flaxy Lady, sent off at odds of 15.70-to-1, hadn't won since capturing the Peppers Pride Stakes on March 6, 2022. Her most recent outing resulted in a fifth-place finish in the renewal of that race on March 5. She picked up her ninth win from 35 career starts with earnings topping $248,000.

Corrina Corrina, winner of two of her three most recent starts and bet down to the 4-to-5 post time favorite, lost all chance at the gate when she broke slow and was forced to lag behind a moderate early pace. Ridden by Ken Tohill, she found her best stride as the field turned for home as she closed in on the eventual winner and just missed at the wire.

Flaxy Lady returned $33.40 to her winning backers, while the exacta with the top pair of finishers came back $86.60. For Perez, it was the second riding win on the Sunday program. He won the sixth race of the day aboard Raise Our Flag for trainer Harold Garcia.

Bossy Baby was forced to settle for third with Marked By A Storm rounding out the top four finishers.

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Jockey Adrian Ramos had a big day on Sunday, winning three races on the card. Ramos won the opener aboard Wes Giles-trained Trump This Record before winning the second race on Jess Riden Easy for trainer Adam Archuleta. Ramos and Giles teamed up again in the fourth race aboard A Candy Dynasty.

Bye Bye Bobby rolls in Inaugural Stakes

Bye Bye Bobby and jockey Luis Fuentes approach the finish line in front during the running of the $75,000 Inaugural Stakes, Saturday, April 8, 2023 at SunRay Park and Casino.

Trainer Todd Fincher earned his first stakes win of the SunRay Park and Casino season on Saturday, as Bye Bye Bobby pulled clear in deep stretch to win the $75,000 Inaugural Stakes under jockey Luis Fuentes.

Owned by B4 Farms, LLC, Bye Bye Bobby was never too far off the lead in the 6 1/2 furlong event, racing third behind the pacesetting duo of KP Aim High and Open Road, who battled through an opening half mile in 47.96 seconds.

As the field turned for home, Fuentes found another gear on the outside of that pair, drawing up alongside them and inching his way clear inside the final furlong to win by two lengths, stopping the clock in 1 minute, 18.17 seconds.

The 4-year-old colt by Quality Road earned the second stakes win of his 12-race career in the Inaugural. His only other stakes victory came in his debut as a 2-year-old in the Zia Park Juvenile Stakes. Last year, he was second in the Riley Allison Derby, as well as the Mine That Bird Derby and the Grade 3 Sunland Derby. His most recent start was a narrow defeat when finishing third in the Bill Thomas Memorial Handicap on March 28 at Sunland Park.

Bye Bye Bobby now has four lifetime wins with earnings topping $288,000.

Fincher and Fuentes are both coming off strong seasons at Sunland Park near El Paso, Texas. Fincher was the leading thoroughbred trainer and Fuentes captured the thoroughbred riding title at the recently concluded racing season.

The win in the Inaugural was one of two victories on the day for Fincher, who also trained Massive Roar to victory in the eighth race on the card.

Fuentes rode three winners during Saturday's card, also reaching the finish line first in the third race aboard Wildstarinthesky, as well as Time Is Precious in the fourth race of the day.

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Bye Bye Bobby was sent off as the 17-to-10 post time favorite in the Inaugural and paid $5.40 to his winning backers. KP Aim High, ridden by Oscar Ceballos finished second. The $2 exacta with the top pair returned $74.80. Open Road and jockey Tracy Hebert finished third with Goddard and jockey Felipe Valdez rounding out the top four finishers.

Jockey Alejandro Medellin rode three winners on Saturday, aboard Singing Delight in the opener, followed by Wild Firewater in the second race before finishing the day with a win aboard Diabolical Package in the tenth race.

Forrest Effort earns big win in NM Breeders' Stakes

Forrest Effort, owned by Emily Chavez and Nathalie Chavez, got the lead in the final yards and proved best under jockey Alfredo Sigala to win the $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Stakes, the opening day featured event on Friday at SunRay Park.

Trained by Omar Vargas, the gelded son of Tf Featured Effort, broke alertly from the starting gate and battled early on the front end and proved best late, holding off a late rally from Jesses Wish under Christian Ramos. Forrest Effort ran the 400 yards in a final time of 19.78 seconds.

Forrest Effort earned the first stakes win of his career with his victory in the NM Breeders' Stakes. He was a close third in his most recent start on March 17 against allowance company at Sunland Park. The win improves his lifetime record to three wins from seven starts with earnings topping $113,000.

Vargas and Sigala each won a pair of races on the opening day program. The rider/trainer tandem won the eighth race on the card with Tac Me Up.

Sent off at odds of 4.60-to-1, Forrest Effort returned $11.20 to his winning backers. Jesses Wish, sent off at odds of 13-to-1 finished second with the $2 exacta combining the top pair paying $138.80. Mires A La Luna finished third, with Wahine, the post time favorite, rounding out the top four finishers.

Jockey Luis Martinez had a big day on Friday, earning three wins on the opening day program. He scored in the second race aboard Tf Eyes Jessa Rogue, then came back in the third race aboard Jumpn Runn before winning the 10th and final race of the day aboard Martinica.

Live racing resumes on Friday with a first post time of 2:15 p.m.