Despite hitting the gate before the start, the classy First Corona Call came though in the clutch to take a nose victory in the Grade 2 $99,825 West Texas Maturity at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino on Saturday.
Under jockey regular pilot Ricky Ramirez, the highly accomplished New Mexico-bred Quarter Horse reacted to activity in the gate but was able to recover his composure in time to win the 25th renewal of the prestigious stakes race for older runners. Coming off a fourth place finish in the trials, First Corona Call raced as the 3-1 second favorite in the 400 yard dash. The five-year-old Southern Corona gelding carried over $444,000 in earnings coming into the race.
First Corona Call broke on even terms with Zulu Dragon, and the two remained inseparable throughout the race. Mid-way home, First Corona Call moved forward with a slight lead and held the advantage through the finish to win by a nose. The winner muscled his way to a time of 19.03 seconds with no wind blowing. The timing earned a 95 speed index.
The talented Trey Wood, son of legendary Quarter Horse conditioner Blane Wood, trained the winner for owner Richard Shearer of Portales, New Mexico. The West Texas Maturity champion collected his 7th win from 20 starts. He was a fourth place finisher in the 2010 All American Derby and was the runner-up in the 2009 Dash For Cash Futurity at Lone Star Park. The winner’s check of $46,918 pulled his career bankroll to over $490,000.
Zulu Dragon, one of two qualifiers for trainer Jose Badilla, Jr., ran a very bold race and just missed. The five-year-old First Down Dash stallion gave the winner a terrific battle and finished three-parts of a length in front of Zoomin Express. The runner-up won the La Plata Stakes at SunRay Park in 2011. He was ridden by Rodrigo Aceves on Saturday.
Badilla’s second runner was First Down Master. The top qualifier closed with interest in the final 100 yards but had to settle for fourth place, beaten a length.
Live racing resumes on Sunday at 12:45 p.m. The featured 7th race is the $27,800 Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino Claiming Series at six furlongs.