Updated on 09/18/2011 2:31AM

Rocky Gulch captures New Mexico Cup Classic


Rocky Gulch became the first New Mexico-bred Thoroughbred to surpass $1 million in earnings on Sunday, when he outgamed El Minuto for a neck win in the $212,100 New Mexico Cup Classic at Zia Park in Hobbs, N.M. 

The race was one of 11 stakes run on the $2 million New Mexico Cup card. There were seven races for Thoroughbreds and four stakes for Quarter Horses on what was the richest day of racing at Zia.

Rocky Gulch ($4.20) was content to stalk the pace in the one-mile Classic, with Roll On Restina leading the field through fractions of 24 seconds for the opening quarter and 48.60 for the half-mile mark. Rocky Gulch took the lead in the stretch and fought for the win, covering the distance over a fast track in 1:40.60.

"He is just pure class, that's about what he is," said Travis Cunningham, an apprentice who rode Rocky Gulch. "Every time, he gives me 100 percent."

Terry Walker trains Rocky Gulch, who has won four of his last five starts.  

"He's just a big red horse that's got a lot of heart," he said. "He likes a challenge."

Rocky Gulch earned $127,260 for defending his title in the Classic, and the first-place check pushed his earnings to $1,022,807. Overall, he has won 17 of 31 career starts. Rocky Gulch, who came into the Classic as the all-time richest New Mexico-bred Thoroughbred, races for his breeder, Larry Teague, who has lived in Hobbs since 1959. 

Peppers Pride still perfect

In other stakes, Peppers Pride ($4.20) pushed her career record to 6-for-6 when she stalked and pounced her way to a one-length win over Theregoesdancer in the $171,000 Fillies. She covered the six and a half furlongs for 3-year-old fillies in 1:19. Carlos Madeira rode the winner for trainer Joel Marr.

In the $171,000 Colts and Geldings for 3-year-olds, the determined Matchstick Man ($5.20) rallied for a three-quarter length win over Da Candy Man. He covered the six and a half furlongs in 1:19.60. Duane Sterling rode the winner for trainer Dwain Grissom.

Gotta Get secures double for Danley

Trainer Fred Danley collected two stakes wins on the program. He sent out Gotta Get ($4.20) to win his fifth straight race in the $211,000 Championship for Quarter Horses, a race the horse dominated by a length and a quarter. Gotta Get has been unbeatable since returning from a layoff in May.

"We had turned him out," said Danley. "His coat was just kind of dull. We never could get him to blossom and bloom, so we finally turned him out. We gave him a rest, brought him back and everything's gone good." 

Upon his return to racing, Gotta Get has won five straight stakes, all under regular rider James Gonzales II.

Danley's other win came with On Star Cowboy, who defeated favorite Jake Can Dash in the $168,200 870-yard Championship. Freddie Martinez rode the winner, who paid $5.40.

Gulchrunssweet a fast one for Hone

Gulchrunssweet ($5.60), who had run second to On Star Cowboy in an 870-yard allowance last month at Zia, held off a bid from Romeos Wilson to capture the $197,100 Sprint Championship by two and three-quarter lengths. He covered the six furlongs in 1:11.80. Alfredo Juarez Jr. rode the winner for trainer Bart Hone, who has divisions of his stable in New Mexico and Arizona. Earlier this year, Gulchrunssweet set a track record for four and a half furlongs at Sunland Park.

In the sprint counterpart for distaffers, the $196,000 Fillies and Mares, Skirt Alert ($4.40) was a four and three-quarter length winner over La Mamie. Sterling rode the winner for trainer O.D. Jamison, Sr.

Carter gets upset double 

Jockey G.R. Carter Jr. scored upsets in two major stakes for Quarter Horses. He guided Blazin Perfection ($12.60) to a three-quarter length win over 1-5 favorite Gun Battle in the $334,892 Futurity for trainer Michael Joiner. Gun Battle, who was prominent throughout, finished secocnd, a neck in front of third-place finisher Make Mine Genuine.

Earlier on the card, Carter teamed with Stormy's Miracle ($35) for a neck win in the $161,334 Derby for Quarter Horses, with 2-5 favorite Arealstraitheart finishing fourth. Carter was aboard the winner for trainer Emmitt Burelsmith Jr.

* Ky's Quest ($39.40) was an explosive, nine and a half length winner over Persuasive Guy in the $171,000 Juvenile. It was another neck back in third to Colorofrun. Casey Lambert rode the winner for owner-trainer Cliff Lambert.

* Silver Expression ($4.60) delivered as the favorite when she got up for a neck win over Sizzle in the $171,000 Juvenile Fillies. Miguel Perez was aboard for trainer Dick Cappellucci.

* Handle on the program was $730,563.