11/10/2008 12:00AM

Money to be made on New Mexico Cup


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Are you suffering from Breeders' Cup withdrawal? The Nov. 6, 2009, Breeders' Cup card at Santa Anita is still 362 days away. But while you're waiting, you can enjoy the New Mexico Cup races, which are being run Sunday at Zia Park. The 11 races offer $2 million in purse money. While they aren't comparable to the Breeders' Cup in quality, there are still good reasons for racing fans to pay attention.

Here's the first one. Can you name the North American-raced horse who owns the longest win streak in modern history? It's Peppers Pride, a 5-year-old mare who is undefeated in 17 career starts, and she'll have a very good chance to increase her record streak in the $170,000 New Mexico Cup Fillies and Mares. She has earned $884,585 while racing exclusively against New Mexico-breds, and can boost the total to close to $1 million with a victory.

Another good reason to bet on the New Mexico Cup races is that they're easier to handicap than a typical Breeders' Cup card. It isn't hard to figure out who the main contenders are likely to be, and the attractive morning-line odds of some of the horses I like suggest that betting value will be available.

The first four races are for Quarter Horses. The fifth race is the Juvenile Fillies.

When you are handicapping horses that have been running exclusively against statebred competition, a good effort in open stakes company is a positive sign. Blue Eyed Bella won an allowance race and a stakes against New Mexico-breds, then took a two-month break. She dueled most of the way in an open stakes race, then tired and finished third in her return. Trainer Joel Marr shows 27opercent wins second time back from breaks of 45 through 180 days. So an improved performance is likely, and the return to statebred company should make her the filly to beat. She's 3-1 on the morning line.

Prairie Moonlight is still a maiden, but she finished only a length behind Blue Eyed Bella in a stakes in August, and should offer betting value in the exotics at 6-1 on the morning line.

The sixth race is the Filly. Askmetodance is the 2-1 favorite. She has won 5 of 7 starts, and is 3 for 3 in stakes starts. She'll be on or up close to the early lead and rates the edge. Etoile de Dome should put up a good fight, but she'll have to improve to beat Askmetodance.

The Colts and Geldings is race 7. Chimes Has a Song won his last three races - a maiden special and two allowance starts - by an average of 8 1/2 lengths. He was a convincing winner in his lone previous race at Zia, and should be ready to step up and try stakes rivals. Elegant Time checked in second and third in his last two races and figures in the exotics. Dixieland Chime disappointed last time, but is capable of winning with a return to top form.

Race 8 is the Juvenile. Spring to Teras is unbeaten at Zia. He was an easy 10 1/4-length winner versus maidens, then beat allowance rivals second time out. His 9-2 morning line would be a good price. Lefty Who won both of his starts, but might have moved up on a muddy track last time. Waymore's Blues would be dangerous with a return to his best Sunland form.

The Classic is race 9. Some Ghost has won 5 of his last 7 races, and is the defending champion in this one-mile race. He won his return from a layoff of nearly seven months, and should be set to improve second time back. He's the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Midnite Prospector ran a much-improved race when defeating open stakes company last time. He has back class, and if he can avoid regression he can score at a square price in the neighborhood of his 9-2 morning line.

How do you pick against a mare who is undefeated in 17 starts? Peppers Pride will be formidable in the one-mile Fillies and Mares. I doubt that she'll be close to her 4-5 morning-line odds. If she is overbet, there are a couple of opponents to consider as possible upsetters. Silver Expression just finished second, 1 3/4 lengths behind Peppers Pride, and she can continue to move forward in the third race of her form cycle. Her 5-1 morning line is an overlay. Let the Musicbegin made up 12 lengths when she rallied from last to defeat open stakes rivals last time. But the pace was too fast, so the race set up for a closer like her with the last quarter-mile completed in a slow 28 seconds. She's a contender, but her

3-1 morning line is an underlay.

The New Mexico Cup card closes with the Sprint. Gulchrunssweet is in good form now and might be the speed of the speed. His 8-1 morning line is a good price. If Gulchrunssweet stops, Cattleman Prospect can benefit. He rallied to grab the lead, then faded late and finished third going a mile last time. This shorter trip will help, and his 6-1 price will offer some value. Spread out in the exotics as the contention runs deep here.