Zia Park hosted the Grade I Zia Park Quarter Horse Championship today. The race was won by Prospect to the Top, ridden by Oscar Rincon & trained by Mario Sanchez for owner Joel Tavarez. After a clean break, Prospect to the Top ran perfectly straight, got clear sailing, and won by about 2 lengths, covering the 440 yards in 21.323s. In 5 prior starts at Zia, he had never finished worse than 3rd, with 3 wins, a second and a third, including wins in the Hobbs America Derby & the Hobbs America Futurity. At 6-1, Prospect to the Top paid $14.90 to win, $14.30 to place and $10.40 to show.
The big surprise was how poorly Llano Teller ran. The 4 year old, who won last year's All American Derby and was coming out of a runner-up finish in the Bank of America Challenge Championship at Prairie Meadows finished a disappointing 6th, with no obvious excuse. He broke in a little bit, but it was not severe enough to warrant the poor finish. It leads me to ask the question: is Llano Teller tailing off? Is he the horse he once was? His form still looks fairly strong, but there was no excuse for today's effort. His last effort at Prairie Meadows was a 2nd in a Grade I, but I really don't think he put in 100% that night. He has thrown unusual weak efforts, citing his Texas Classic Derby race last year, and maybe he didn't like the Zia surface, but I'm very curious about today's race. I'm very curious to see how he'll race next time.
Also on this afternoon's card was the Zia Park Distance Championship for Thoroughbreds going 1 1/8 miles for $200,000. The races was won by Forest Mouse, who was coming off a runner up finish in the Veteran Stakes. Both in the Veteran and in the Ruidoso Thoroughbred Championship he was beaten a neck by Global Stage, who was entered in the Distance Championship but was a late scratch at the gate. Forest Mouse went off at at his morning line estimate of 3-1 and paid $8.20 to win.
Zia will race on Monday & Tuesday, and then the New Mexico circuit will move to Sunland Park on Friday.