11/30/2012 4:41PM

Zia Park: Red Lead regains best form in time for Distance Championship

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Lisa Dominguez/Coady Photography
Red Lead (left) comes into the Zia Park Distance Championship on a two-race winning streak. He will be switching from turf to dirt.

Red Lead has come within a neck and a nose of winning the two most prestigious Thoroughbred races run at Zia Park. Sunday, he could finally break through at the Hobbs, N.M, track, when he starts as the probable favorite in the $200,000 Distance Championship.

Red Lead is one of 10 older horses in the Distance Championship, a 1 1/8-mile handicap that also drew Thirtyfirststreet and Where’s the Remote from Southern California, and 123-pound New Mexico-based highweight Global Stage. The $120,000 Eddy County and $55,000 Rio Rancho will support the Distance Championship. Both races are for 2-year-olds at a mile, with the Eddy County restricted to New Mexico-breds. In addition, the card includes the Grade 1, $150,000 Zia Quarter Horse Distance Championship.

Red Lead, a three-time stakes winner based in Oklahoma, first raced at Zia in fall 2009 and finished second by a neck in the $150,000 Zia Derby. He returned to Hobbs in 2011 and was second by a nose in the Distance Championship. Red Lead was edged by McKenna’s Justice, who also is back Sunday.

“He’s had some tough beats,” said Chris Hartman, who trains Red Lead for Frontier Stables.

But that has not been the case of late. Red Lead has won his last two starts, both at Remington Park. He took a $62,500 optional claimer at a 1 1/16 miles on turf Oct. 20, then came back to capture a $35,000 optional claimer, at a mile on the grass, Nov. 3. Prior to those starts, all of his wins had come on the main track.

“He’s run two good races on the grass, which has been a little bit of a surprise,” Hartman said. “We ran him on the grass because the open races weren’t going.”

Red Lead has been prominent in his recent starts, and Hartman feels that has been one of the reasons he has recaptured his best form after a dry patch earlier this year. The races at Remington were his first since June.

“He’s been right up in the race, like he used to run,” Hartman said. “He’s getting up on the pace and he’s run some pretty impressive races since coming back from his freshening. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds Sunday. I’m expecting a big effort out of him.”

Chris Landeros, who was aboard Red Lead for both of his recent starts at Remington, has the mount. The horse is weighted at 119.

Stachys, at 120, might be the chief threat. He also invades from Remington, off a late-running third in a $50,000 optional claimer at a mile and 70 yards. He will be seeking the sixth stakes win of his career in the Distance Championship, with one of his biggest coming in the 2010 Zia Derby. Eddie Martin Jr. was aboard for the win and will reunite with the horse Sunday. Stachys, making his second start since a Remington allowance win Sept. 3, races for Al and Bill Ulwelling and is trained by Michael Biehler.

◗ Indication N M and Thermal, who both have won six-furlong stakes this meet at Zia, will make their two-turn debuts in the Eddy County. Both have won four career races, and both are by the Forest Wildcat stallion Attila’s Storm. Indication N M gets a nice amount of stamina from the bottom side of his pedigree as he is out of the A.P. Indy mare Indicate.

◗ Llano Teller leads the Zia Quarter Horse Distance Championship as a multiple graded stakes winner at the 440-yard trip. He was second last out in the Grade 1 Challenge Championship at Prairie Meadows, beaten a half-length. G.R. Carter Jr. has the mount for trainer J.J. Gonzales. Llano Teller is the class of the field as a multiple Grade 1 winner of 11 races and $1.7 million.

◗ Allthatcash will seek to remain undefeated in three starts in the Rio Rancho.