11/07/2006 1:00AM

$2M payday for statebreds


The slots-rich Zia Park will pay out more than $2 million in purses to New Mexico-breds on Sunday, when seven Thoroughbred stakes and four Quarter Horse stakes are run at the Hobbs, N.M., track. Entries for the second annual New Mexico Cup Day were taken on Tuesday.

"Things went real well, a lot of full fields," said Tom Davis, racing secretary at Zia Park.

Rocky Gulch's name is synonymous with the New Mexico-bred program as one of the state's most dominant horses. A winner of 16 races and $895,547, he will head the richest race on the card for Thoroughbreds, the $200,000 New Mexico Cup Classic. The race is the final stakes on the 11-race card, which drew 110 horses. Rocky Gulch will break from post 8 in the 11-horse field Sunday.

Trainer Terry Walker has given the mount to Travis Cunningham. Rocky Gulch should be sharp for the one-mile race off a win over six furlongs in an overnight stakes at Zia on Oct. 2. The defending champ in the Classic, he races for Larry Teague, a resident of Hobbs.

Zia opened for its inaugural meet in 2005, and paid out $1.5 million in purses during its first New Mexico Cup program. This year's $2 million payout is believed to make for the richest day for a single state breeding program offered at one track on one day in North America.

The richest race on the card is for Quarter Horses, and among those entered in the $332,350 New Mexico Cup Futurity is Gun Battle, the runner-up in the prestigious All-American Futurity.

"He'll be the favorite in there," Davis said of Gun Battle.

Another top Quarter Horse on the card is Arealstraitheart, winner of the Grade 1 All American Derby. He will run in the $160,380 New Mexico Classic Derby.

Among the races for Thoroughbreds, which cover a host of divisions, horses of interest include Peppers Pride, who is a perfect 5 for 5. Trained by Joel Marr, she will put her record on the line in the $160,000 New Mexico Cup Championship Fillies. There are also a pair of $160,000 stakes for 2-year-olds on the card.

The forecast calls for sunny skies, with a high temperature of 71 degrees. Post time for the first race is 12:15 p.m. Mountain.