11/25/2004 1:00AM

Values of the Hunt ready for stakes win


For the past couple of years, Values of the Hunt has shown ability but has never won a stakes. That may be about to change as the 4-year-old Values of the Hunt runs in Saturday's $132,250 Johnie L. Jamison Handicap at Sunland Park. The 6 1/2-furlong race for New Mexico-breds drew a field of 10.

comes into this on a three-race winning streak. He romped twice against New Mexico-bred allowance foes in February and March, but didn't race again until Nov. 9, in a tough New Mexico-bred allowance spot.

The layoff and tough spot didn't matter. Under regular rider Isaias Enriquez, the Todd Fincher-trained Values of the Hunt stalked the pace, swung out for the stretch drive, and surged to a clear victory. He beat Hesa Bad Cat back into second, and faces that rival again in the Jamison.

Values of the Hunt is third in the weights 120 pounds. Last year he finished fourth in the Jamison but has the look of a better horse now.

He must repeat his last effort if he is to again defeat Hesa Bad Cat, a major player among New Mexico-breds. Trained by Cal Martin, Hesa Bad Cat has been first or second in nine of his last 10 starts. The only time he wasn't first or second was in a mixed-breed, 1,000-yard race at Sunland in March. He showed his customary good speed here Nov. 9, but just could not keep up with Values of the Hunt in the lane. He carries second highweight of 121 pounds and regular rider Oscar Ceballos.

The big question mark is 123-pound highweight Rocky Gulch. Trained by Terry Walker, Rocky Gulch was the top New Mexico-bred juvenile last year and has maintained that role as a 3-year-old this year. After a summer vacation, however, he returned in a stakes at SunRay Park Nov. 2, showed speed to duel early at 3-5, but faltered badly to finish fifth, beaten 24-plus lengths. He may have needed the race, but it's easily his worst outing.