12/12/2008 12:00AM

Peppers Pride in tougher than usual


Peppers Pride already owns the longest win streak in modern history with 18 consecutive victories. Sunday, she can become a millionaire when she runs in the $125,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap at Sunland Park.

The race could be the final start for Peppers Pride, an undefeated 5-year-old mare who has earned $991,085. Her connections, owner Joe Allen and trainer Joel Marr, both said a decision on her status would be made following the six-furlong race for fillies and mares bred in New Mexico.

"We're 95 percent sure this is the last one, unless something just really changed," said Allen, who bred Peppers Pride. "We're pretty sure that we're going to retire her."

Marr noted that the next race on the New Mexico calendar for Peppers Pride is not until March.

"I'd love to race her some more, but it might not be the best thing long-term for her," he said. "She really has nothing else to prove, and she deserves the chance to be bred to a nice horse and start that career."

Peppers Pride's streak dates back to July 16, 2005, when she won her debut in a trial race at Ruidoso Downs. Peppers Pride would go on to set a modern North American mark for consecutive wins in her 17th start, this past Oct. 4 at Zia Park. With the victory, she separated herself in the record books from Cigar, Citation, Hallowed Dreams, and Mister Frisky.

"Whenever she does for sure quit running, I'll look back on things and reflect more," Marr said. "Right now, we don't really try to look back. We just try to keep looking at the next one.

"It is something you don't ever want to end," he added. "You feed on it. It's been almost five years since she first came to the barn. Everybody around her has been on their toes a long time, to not let anything slip by. It's just been focused every day for a long time. But I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Peppers Pride will be facing one of her toughest tests to date on Sunday. She is the 126-pound highweight and will spot her rivals between seven and 13 pounds.

"I think it's the best field she's faced in a long time," Marr said. "You've got Skirt Alert coming back off a long layoff with a prep race at Zia. You've got one of the best New Mexico-bred mares ever in Silver Expression.

"Hang Glide is a nice mare who's been very consistent, and you've got a newcomer to the stakes ranks, Negotiablafections. She's got lots of speed and has pretty much annihilated the fields she's been running against. She's going to have her heart built up, a lot of confidence. I think it's going to be a challenge."

Jockey Carlos Madeira, who has been flawless on the mare her entire career, will be aboard Peppers Pride.

Peppers Pride was a one-length winner of the $177,615 New Mexico Cup Filly and Mare Classic at a mile at Zia in her last start, Nov. 9. For the effort, she earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 73, her lowest number since February 2007.

"That wasn't her best performance," Marr said, "but I think we can do better."

Marr said he looks for Peppers Pride to take a step forward on Sunday. He said she has been eager in her training, and she will be racing over what has long been her home track. Marr hopes for a stalking trip with Peppers Pride, who will break from post 6.

The race goes as the 10th, and it will share a card with the $125,000 Johnie L. Jamison, a 6 1/2-furlong race that drew New Mexico Cup winners Ky's Quest (Classic) and Cattleman Prospect (Sprint).