• La Coronel (5-1) leads them all the way in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.Posted 3 days ago
  • Rubilinda (6-5) finds the wire just in time to take the Pebbles Stakes.Posted 3 days ago
  • Engage (1-2) rolls home from last to win the Grade 3 Futurity Stakes.Posted 3 days ago
  • Bolt d'Oro is the 12-1 favorite in the current Las Vegas line for Kentucky Derby 2018.Posted 6 days ago
  • Romantic Vision (6-1) takes the sloppy Spinster (G1) at Keeneland.Posted 9 days ago
  • Unique Bella (1-5) returns with a clear victory in the L. A. Woman (G3) at Santa Anita.Posted 9 days ago
  • Flameaway (5-1) wins a three-horse photo finish in the Dixiana Bourbon (G3) at a wet Keeneland.Posted 9 days ago
  • War Flag (9-1) wins the stretch battle in Belmont's Flower Bowl (G1).Posted 9 days ago
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  • Roy H (4-5) lives up to favoritism in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship.Posted 10 days ago
Breeders' Cup 2017
HRN Original Blog:
New Mexico

Zia Park Derby Challenges the Senses

I could sit here and sell you excuses and whatnot about why I've not posted more frequently here, but let’s just be honest… Work can be a pain in the ass and it takes away from the fun stuff sometimes.

As we rapidly approach the end of the 2012 Zia Park racing season and glance ahead to the upcoming Sunland Park season, I’m hoping to jump back on the beam as well and provide you with some insights on the racing scene here in the “Land of Enchantment.”

Let’s get after it right now with one of the highlights of the thoroughbred racing season here in Hobbs, and that’s Saturday’s $150,000 Zia Park Derby, which will go as the 10th race of a strong 11-race card.

The Derby features a mixed bag of shippers, speedsters, stayers and class-jumpers. In other words, it’s one of those races where a lot has to go the right way for your horse to get home on top.

The morning line favorite, Doug O’Neill’s Private Zone, drew the perfect spot for his likely front-running tactics under journeyman rider Kevin Krigger. 

The problem with Private Zone? Well, there’s actually more than one, so let’s start with the obvious.

He’s going to be an impossibly short price on which to make a serious investment. He comes from high-profile connections, appears to have run a super race last time out at Santa Anita and could easily go gate-to-wire if he gets out on a lonely lead.

Going back and watching his second-place effort in the Damascus Stakes at Santa Anita tipped me off that he may not be such a worthy investment after all.

On a track that totally played to speedy types, Private Zone dueled through quick fractions of 22.16 and 43.88 before opening up a length lead in midstretch. 

That’s when the roof caved in on Private Zone. The fractions caught up to him and he melted down late, finishing second in the 7-furlong sprint behind a well-meant runner Politicallycorrect. (Don’t worry, this all ties together soon…. Keep reading!)

Private Zone doesn’t seem to like being sent along, he doesn’t appear to run well when not sent to the lead, he has yet to win a race in four starts since shipping stateside from Panama & quite frankly, he’s done very little to warrant anywhere that 5-to-2 morning line price.

With Motown Men, Alsvid, Whining and Master Rick all figuring to be a part of the early pace, I think a wise way to play would be to toss Private Zone in all wagers. If he beats us, he beats us. I just happen to believe there’s not much here to like.

There appear to be two very logical contenders here, one which will be pressing the pace and another who will be looking to slingshot past the leaders as the field hit’s the head of the lane.

I like the looks of #9 MASTER RICK. Although he’s hard-pressed from his outside post, he’s danced with some of the best along the way and may be rounding back into form. 

The Steve Asmussen-trained son of Master Command is winless in five starts since winning the Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn Park last March. In fact, he’s only hit the board once in those races, a non-threatening third place finish in the Grade 2 Super Derby this past summer at Louisiana Downs.

The winner of that race, Bourbon Courage, came back with a strong third place finish in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. 

I can’t blame you for being skeptical of that seventh-place finish in the Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park last time out. I was skeptical as well -- even after seeing his no-excuse effort.

Take a look at his company line… seriously, read it… I’ll still be here when you come back.

Note the winner of the race Politicallycorrect, who would come back just 5 weeks later to win the aforementioned Damascus Stakes at Santa Anita. Also in that field were some tough customers in Willy Beamin and Called To Serve.

No disrespect intended (alright, that’s a bit of a lie) but there are no such stars in this event.

Listed as the third choice on the morning line at odds of 9-to-2, Master Rick might be a fair price on the toteboard and figures to be in the mix from the outside post and could be tough to run down late.

With a healthy dose of speed in the race, it would be unwise to overlook #8 EXPLAIN for trainer Robertino Diodoro.

Most recently, Explain tired in deep stretch to finish a close fourth in the Pomona Derby around three turns at Fairplex Park.

Earlier in the Pomona season, Explain won a 6-furlong sprint stakes race, earning only the second win in his 9-race career.

It’s safe to say that even with a bit of a class cloud to climb here, that race conditions may be more in his favor here under jockey Jorge Carreno.

Explain is listed at 6-to-1 on the morning line & I think that’s a rather reasonable number considering the apparent raceshape.

#5 YANKEE DAN and #4 ALSVID may be prominent in the lane here as well.

I’ve written much better stuff than this in the past, so forgive me while I use this space to shake off the rust.

If you believe in luck, then I hope you have plenty of it.


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Older Comments about Zia Park Derby Challenges the Senses...

Why did they sent Alsvid in that speed duel? Motown Men would have gotten tired on the dead rail even if he had gone alone. The race set up perfectly for Ol Winedrinker Who. Cool that the local won though.
wouldn't even be there if the casino weren't the driving force.
Wondering if Zia Park should be on my list of tracks to visit...

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I have had the pleasure of seeing the business of racing from several unique angles.

As a writer, I enjoy the time spent with horsemen, interviewing some of the most amazing people the sport has to offer.

As a radio talk show host, I get to hear the excitement of the jockey moments after winning a big race and the thunderous noise of a live crowd growing louder as the stretch run gets closer to completion.

As a paddock show host, I see the horses, not just as numbers and statistics on a sheet of paper, but as strong, incredible, vulnerable and energetic animals, capable of either being brilliant or chaotic as any animal at any given moment.

I have been covering the sport of horse racing for nearly 20 years, starting as a young, roving reporter in Southern California before moving to New Mexico in 2002.

I have had the extreme pleasure of watching the sport of kings thrive and succeed here in the Land of Enchantment.

In addition to the incredible quarter horse talent on display here on a daily basis, we’re also blessed to be the home state of record-setter Peppers Pride as well as one of the biggest longshot winners in Kentucky Derby history, Mine That Bird.

I’ll be here frequently offering reports and selections on races throughout the state of New Mexico, from Sunland to Zia, from Albuquerque to Ruidoso, and from my hometown track of SunRay Park and Casino, where I work as paddock show host when I am not doing my “other” job as a radio talk show host on FOX SPORTS AM1340.

Please feel free to let me know if you like or dislike what you see here. I firmly believe you learn something new every day in this sport, so if you have something to teach me, feel free to let me know.

I hope you enjoy the work here and throughout the pages of Horse Racing Nation. I’m proud to be a new member of this extraordinary family.

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