12/18/2007 12:00AM

Peppers Pride nearing record

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Eugene O'Neill/Coady Photography
Peppers Pride stretches her streak of consecutive victories to 14 in Sunday's $125,000 New Mexico State Handicap at Sunland Park.
It has not been easy for the undefeated Peppers Pride to string together 14 consecutive wins, and it appears the road will be getting tougher from here. On Sunday, she spotted each of her rivals between 9 and 14 pounds when she won the $125,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap at Sunland Park.

The next race for her division – the $100,000 Sydney Valentini for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares at Sunland – is not until March, and if Peppers Pride starts in it, she will be stretching out around two turns for the first time in a year. The Valentini is also a handicap, and weight will be a bigger issue at two turns than it was in the sprint on Sunday.

And there are other considerations for Peppers Pride, a 4-year-old who has raced exclusively in New Mexico. On Sunday, she faced only five others, which may not be the case in the Valentini.

“You’re going to have a bigger field and new bunch of fresh horses,” said Joel Marr, who trains Peppers Pride. “There’s new blood in the 3-year-olds, and there’s always a chance for horses to get better. It’s going to get tougher.”

With the Valentini not until March 23, and with Peppers Pride just two wins shy of equaling the modern mark of 16 consecutive wins shared by Cigar, Citation, Hallowed Dreams, and Mister Frisky, Marr and the filly’s owner, Joe Allen, have some tough decisions to make. On Monday, Marr said he would explore options outside New Mexico.

“We’d like to stay here,” he said. “We’d like to run in that race in March. That would be our first choice. But there’s a limit to how much weight we’re going to spot the rest of the horses, and a limit to the weight that she’s going to carry, for her own health and safety. So, it just all depends on those things.

“A lot of things are up in the air right now. Mainly, we’re just concerned about her, making sure she’s healthy and ready to go if we decide to go somewhere. Or if we stay and we’re not going to run until March, she’s going to get a little break.”

As for hitting 16 straight wins, Marr is not looking too far ahead.

“We’ll think about 15 next, and let the chips fall where they may,” he said. “It would be something special, but we can’t get there until we get through the next two, so were going to take them one at a time.”