11/13/2006 1:00AM

Rocky Gulch a millionaire after Classic win

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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, all for New Mexico-breds, run on the $2?million New Mexico Cup card. There were seven races for Thoroughbreds and four stakes for Quarter Horses on 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 Retsina leading the field through fractions of 24 seconds for the opening quarter-mile 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.

Terry Walker trains Rocky Gulch, who has won 4 of his last 5 starts.

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.

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 6 1/2 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 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:19.60. Duane Sterling rode the winner for trainer Dwain Grissom.

Ky’s Quest ($39.40) was an explosive, 9 1/2-length winner over Persuasive Guy in the $171,000 Juvenile. 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.