12/22/2010 4:39PM

Noconi seeks fourth straight graded win in Championship


Noconi will have a lot of momentum Sunday, when he seeks his fourth consecutive graded stakes win in the $350,000 Championship for Quarter Horses at Sunland Park.

The 400-yard race is the final Grade 1 of the year for Quarter Horses, and Noconi enters fresh off becoming a millionaire in the $150,000 Zia Park Distance Championship on Dec. 5. His chief rival is Stolis Winner, who last month became the all-time richest Quarter Horse.

Noconi began his streak in the Grade 2 All American Gold Cup at Ruidoso Downs on Sept. 5. He then took the Grade 2 Lovington Handicap at Zia Park on Nov. 7 before moving back to Grade 1 company in the Distance Championship. He won the race by three-quarters of a length under regular rider Jacky Martin.

“He really finished strong on the end of the race, and Jacky didn’t have to push him too hard,” trainer Paul Jones said. “The horse needs a little finesse riding, and Jacky does that well.”

Noconi, the champion 3-year-old gelding of 2008, races for the partnership of R.D. Hubbard and John T.L. Jones Jr. The decision was made to campaign the horse this year in New Mexico, and in the last several months he has run the tables on some of the state’s most important races for Quarter Horses.

“We were hoping to get to the Sunland Park Championship,” Jones said. Noconi, who has won 10 of 25 starts and $1,073,563, will break from post 5.

Stolis Winner broke Refrigerator’s earnings record when he finished third in the Grade 1 Challenge Championships at Fair Grounds on Nov. 19. He was beaten a half-length in the 440-yard race, which went in a track-record time of 21.26 seconds. The $35,000 he earned pushed his bankroll to $2,153,981.

Stolis Winner will break from post 9 of 10 under Jerrod Deschamp and will be making his first start for trainer Frank Elizondo. The gelding’s regular trainer, Heath Taylor, was recently given a 60-day suspension for a medication violation in Louisiana.

◗ Miss Heather Lee, who a year ago was second to Blind Luck in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet, cuts back to one turn Sunday in the $50,000 Bold Ego, a five and a half furlong sprint for fillies and mares.