10/26/2012 3:23PM

Zia: Fincher well-stocked with New Mexico Cup contenders


Trainer Todd Fincher could have the favorites in the two most important Thoroughbred stakes on the $2 million New Mexico Cup card at Zia Park on Sunday. He will send out Smash Dancer in search of his fourth win since July in the $180,000 Rocky Gulch Classic, while Rose’s Desert will defend her title in the $170,000 Peppers Pride Championship.

The races are part of a card of 11 divisional stakes for New Mexico-breds, with seven of the races for Thoroughbreds and four for Quarter Horses. The program is one of the richest statebred championship cards in North America, and it annually is the most important racing date on Fincher’s calendar.

“It’s the day of the year,” he said. “There’s no other day of the year we run for this kind of money. It’s pretty much our Breeders’ Cup Day.” Fincher won four New Mexico Cup stakes in 2009, and three on last year’s program. He will have 10 starters in eight stakes on Sunday. Smash Dancer goes in the featured Rocky Gulch, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds and up that drew a field of 10, including defending champ Cross Chris Run.

Smash Dancer has been on top of his game since the summer, winning four of his last five starts in a streak that began in a Ruidoso Downs allowance July 8. He also won that track’s $50,000 Land of Enchantment Handicap and in more recent times rolled to a three-length allowance win at Zia in what served as a prep for the Rocky Gulch. The success correlates with a decision, due to spots available, to begin racing Smash Dancer around two turns on a regular basis. He previously had been a stakes-winning sprinter.

“These summer races have all been long, so that’s where we tried him,” said Fincher, who trains Smash Dancer for his breeder, Barbara Coleman. “He’s relished the route distances better than I thought he would. He’s matured, relaxed, doesn’t have to have the lead anymore.”

Smash Dancer on Sunday could get a tracking trip behind sprint-to-route prospects Lesters Secret and Nuggets Please, and perhaps the rail-drawn Cross Chris Run. Casey Lambert has the mount on Smash Dancer, who will break from post 5.

Rose’s Desert will be moving back to two turns for the Peppers Pride, a one-mile race for fillies and mares that goes with a field of nine, including multiple stakes winner Cali Baby. Rose’s Desert enters off a 5 1/2-furlong allowance sprint win at Zia on Sept. 23. The start was her first out since March, and following it she has worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Oct. 20.

“She’s only had one race since March, and it was a good tightener,” said Fincher. “She’s trained well since and I expect her to run a really good race.”

Lambert also has the mount on Rose’s Desert, who will break from post 9 Sunday.

“She should stay out of trouble from there, that’s the good part,” said Fincher. “Hopefully, she won’t get hung too wide.”

Rose’s Desert races for her breeder, Joe Peacock.

Fincher’s other starters include Chuchuluco in the $170,000 Sprint. He will be defending his title and comes into the six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up off an allowance win at Zia.

“He’s really doing good,” Fincher said. “He’s come off a long break, and had a couple of races. He’s fresh and he’s ready.”

Fincher has a trio of 2-year-olds in the $140,000 Juvenile: stakes winners Kiss My Hennessy and Thermal, and allowance winner Rio El Diablo.

“All three have a legitimate shot,” he said. “Two of them are futurity winners that haven’t run in three months, and the other is coming off an allowance win and does have a race over the course.”

Other stakes include the $140,000 Juvenile Fillies that drew 12; a pair of $140,000 stakes for 3-year-olds at six furlongs; and the $293,550 Classic Futurity for Quarter Horses.