04/14/2006 12:00AM

Richest statebreds square off


A battle between the two richest New Mexico-breds of all time seems a fitting conclusion as Sunland Park concludes its 2005-06 meeting Sunday.

Rocky Gulch and Ciento will lock horns in an invitational handicap for New Mexico-breds at one mile. They didn't exactly scare off the opposition as eight others have entered the feature, which goes as the 12th race on a 13-race program.

($834,608) and Ciento ($797,780) figure to garner most of the attention here, though each comes with question marks. Rocky Gulch, the 2005 New Mexico-bred horse of the year, hasn't been quite as strong this season. In fact, he's winless in four starts here this meet, though he has run well - second twice, third once, and fourth once - in his four stakes engagements.

Most recently the 5-year-old Rocky Gulch rallied to be second, more than three lengths back as Gulchrunssweet set a track record for 4 1/2 furlongs in the Mt. Cristo Rey Handicap on March 26. Jorge Martin Bourdieu will ride for owner Larry Teague and trainer Terry Walker.

, now 8, was the dominant older New Mexico-bred in 2003-04, but after seven straight victories he was sidelined by injury for more than 17 months. He came back with a modest run in an allowance sprint here Jan. 28, but then rallied gamely to win another allowance sprint here March 14. Owned by Jay Brobroff and Dick Cappellucci and trained by Cappellucci, he moves back to a distance he likes, sporting a 4-for-8 record at a mile. Ciento also boasts a five-furlong bullet here April 6. Jockey Ken Tohill has the call.

As dominant as these two have been the past couple seasons, however, they have issues - can they get back to their best form? If they can't, that may leave things open for the likes of Ninety Nine Jack and Some Ghost.

That pair finished one-two in the one-mile New Mexico State University Handicap here Feb. 18, separated by just a nose at the wire while leaving Rocky Gulch more than five lengths behind in fourth. Ninety Nine Jack has come back strong from an injury that sidelined him for most of 2005 and has won two stakes this meet. Some Ghost hasn't run since the New Mexico State University but has fired fresh before and boasts a bullet five-furlong move here April 9.