01/06/2011 3:56PM

Imco Spirit pays big dividends for Dominguez

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Trainer Henry Dominguez got a great deal when he went “shopping” through Del Mar’s claim box this past summer. He took Imco Spirit for $12,500, and by December the horse had won two allowances and the $200,000 Zia Park Distance Championship back home in New Mexico.

Fast forward to Saturday and Imco Spirit should rule as a slight favorite in a competitive running of the $50,000 Winsham Lad. The mile-and- 70-yard race for older horses is the first leg of Sunland Park’s series for handicap horses. A field of nine will go, including Red Lead, who won the allowance prep on Dec. 19; Black Hills, who is the defending champ in the Winsham Lad; and Schramsberg, a son of the champion racemare Serena’s Song who missed by a half-length in the Zia Distance Championship.

Imco Spirit was one of two horses Dominguez set out to claim at Del Mar on the afternoon of Aug. 29. But he was outshook for one of them, a 2-year-old.

“We shop, especially during the Del Mar meet,” said Dominguez. “We get horses for our fall and winter campaigns at Zia and Sunland. This horse seemed to fit our program. He had conditions. He looked like he was versatile, like he could run just about anywhere from 6 1/2 furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth, a mile and an eighth. We’re fortunate to have him.”

Imco Spirit won the day he was claimed, then came back and took two allowances at Zia for Dominguez and his partner in the horse, J. Kirk Robison. From there, Imco Spirit stepped up into the stakes ranks and finished second in the $55,000 Veterans at Zia. He set the pace in that Nov. 6 race and was overtaken, then turned a new trick one start later, for the Zia Distance Championship on Dec. 5.

“We decided we wanted to take him back a little bit, and had a good stalking trip and the horse really performed well,” Dominguez said. “I think he’s pretty versatile.”

Imco Spirit moved to dirt with the move to New Mexico, after having regularly competed on synthetic surfaces and turf in Southern California.

“I think that dirt has helped him quite a bit,” Dominguez said. “We got lucky there.”

Alejandro Medellin has the mount on Imco Spirit, who will break from post 7. Thehorse might get a nice tracking trip behind the rail-drawn Schramsberg, who set the pace in the Zia Distance Championship.