04/09/2004 11:00PM

A to the Z victorious in Sunland Park Handicap

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SUNLAND PARK, N. M. - A sudden mid-afternoon desert thunderstorm left the always-dry Sunland surface a soupy quagmire and left the $100,000-added Sunland Park Handicap up for grabs. With the usually glib track turned into a tiring quicksand, Quyet Bui put in a perfectly timed ride aboard Susan Ray's A to the Z, coming 16 lengths back at the half, then rallying seven wide into the stretch to get up in the final strides.

The race was marred from the start as Haitian Hit stumbled leaving the gate and lost jockey Isaias Enriquez, then decided to take on the race by himself, weaving in and out through the stretch and impeding second place finisher Pleasant Bend among others. Front runners Novel T Dreamer, Streak of Royalty and Fame Ina Minute all faded from view in the stretch as the heavy going took it's toll.

For trainer Gerald Marr and Bui it was a sweet redemption as A to the Z had been disqualified from an allowance win March 9 and there was some talk Bui would be replaced. After the race Bui expressed surprise at the $25.40 win, saying his plan had been "to just sit back, make one big run and see if we could get a piece of it, but at the quarter pole I began to realize that we had a chance" Bui stated, adding that "I think the mud played in his favor.

Marr said he had felt all along his horse would benefit from added distance and that idea was validated today. A to the Z finished the 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.41 and keyed an $8,064.20 trifecta payout. Favored Defrere's Vixen never appeared comfortable with the track and finished eighth at 3-5.