11/09/2008 12:00AM

Decision on Peppers Pride nears


No horse has been able to stop the undefeated Peppers Pride, but a decision by her connections this coming week might. She will be out for her 18th consecutive win on Sunday in the $170,000 Filly and Mare Championship at Zia Park in Hobbs, N.M., and a day later her future will be discussed by her breeder and owner, Joe Allen, and her trainer, Joel Marr.

"We're trying to decide whether to breed her or run her another year," Allen said. "We're still trying to decide exactly what we're going to do, and we'll have a lot better idea after this weekend. It's always kind of been our intention to retire her, there's just a possibility that we might run into the [new] year."

So on Sunday, Peppers Pride could be making the penultimate start of her career when she defends her title in the Filly and Mare Championship, one of 11 stakes on the $2 million New Mexico Cup card. The program is one of the nation's richest for statebreds, with seven stakes for Thoroughbreds and four for Quarter Horses. It's also the premier day of racing at Zia, a Penn Gaming-owned track that opened in 2005 and is home to 750 slot machines.

Peppers Pride, a 5-year-old who has raced exclusively with New Mexico-breds, has just one other significant race on the calendar this year, the $125,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap at Sunland Park on Dec. 14.

"If we run her in December, the next stakes race for her is not until the end of March," Marr said. "It's probable that we would retire her [this year], but I don't know what will

happen. We're going to try to get through this one first."

Peppers Pride began her win streak in a trial race at Ruidoso Downs on July 16, 2005. She picked up her 17th straight win last month in an optional claiming race at Zia, establishing

a modern North American record for

consecutive wins. And while Peppers Pride has successfully completed her run at history, much is still at stake with the mare, who has earned $884,585.

"There's still a lot of pressure, obviously, because you don't want to lose no matter what," said Marr. "Even if it's five or seven or whatever, you want to keep it going. We got the 17 out of the way, and I'm happy about that, but this is a big race. It's a nice purse and it's something we've been pointing towards, and there's always a lot of pressure. But I know she's going to try and do her best. She's helped me learn to trust a little bit."

Marr began training for Allen about eight years ago. They were brought together by the stallion Desert God, the sire of Peppers Pride and a half-brother to Better Than Honour, the broodmare who brought a record $14 million at auction last week at Fasig-Tipton. Allen purchased Desert God from the University of Arizona and sought out Marr because he had one of the stallion's offspring in training in New Mexico. The two have made history together with Peppers Pride, who is the last foal from her late dam, Lady Pepper.

"It's just been unbelievable," said Allen, a

62-year-old restaurant owner from Abilene, Texas. "It's just been the highlight of everything."

Peppers Pride brought out a capacity crowd of about 4,000 to Zia, a small track, when she set the record Oct. 4. Zia management is hoping for the same kind of numbers on Sunday, said Rick Baugh, the assistant general manager. He said posters featuring Peppers Pride setting the consecutive-win record will be given away at the track Sunday.

Carlos Madeira, who has ridden Peppers Pride in all of her races, has the mount in the one-mile Filly and Mare Championship. The chief threats appear to be Let the Musicbegin, an open-company stakes winner at a mile last out at Zia, and Silver Expression, who is

making her third start off a layoff. The race will go as the featured 10th, and is scheduled to be broadcast on TVG.

In other stakes, Some Ghost will be out to defend his title in the $180,000 Classic, while Chimes Has a Song, who has won his last three starts by a combined 25 lengths, will make his stakes debut against fellow 3-year-olds in the $140,000 Colts and Geldings.