Our Choice explodes late to win $110,000 Mt. Cristo Rey Handicap
Our Choice exploded like a rocket in mid-stretch to capture an impressive 2 and 3/4-length win in the $110,000 Mt. Cristo Rey Handicap at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino on Saturday.
In a bravura performance, the seven-year-old New Mexico-bred gelding perfectly adapted his come from behind style to the condensed four and one half furlong distance. Under jockey Ry Eikleberry, Our Choice race wide in sixth place early while 31-1 long shot and stable mate Doms Flash forced a wicked pace with Thenew Normal.
Coming off the turn, the even money favorite turned up the heat with a six-wide power move and took dead aim on the prize. The exceedingly sharp son of Desert God hit another gear and swept past his opponents with virtual ease. In deep stretch, he was pulling clear with each stride, and Eikleberry geared down the handsome winner just before the finish line. The winning time of 49.57 seconds was the second fastest four and one-half furlong clocking in Sunland Park history. The clocking just missing the track standard of 49.43 seconds held by Key’s Band in 2009.
Our Choice has won three straight races since being claimed for $25,000 by trainer Justin Evans on Dec. 27. The versatile stakes winner picked up a $66,000 payday for the Stable H.M.A, of Tempe, Arizona. His record stands at a glossy 10 wins, 6 seconds and 7 thirds from 45 starts. He won the Red Hedeman Mile as a two-year-old in 2007. His most recent stakes win came at Albuquerque in the E.T. Springer last September.
Winning conditioner Evans also trained the runner-up Doms Flash. The latter poured on the early pressure and appeared to wear out most of the speed horses in the race. The upstart outran his odds and finished a half length in front of Lester’s Echo. The runner-up earned $23,100 for owners Sandra McKenna and James Drought. The $1 trifecta paid a solid $231.00.
Mary Barber’s Pure D Gold fought valiantly to gain fourth place, beaten four lengths. 5-2 second favorite Smash Dancer wound up in sixth place. Thenew Normal was used up in the pace duel and finished ninth.
Live racing resumes on Sunday at 12:45 p.m. The $110,000 Mesilla Valley Speed Handicap (4th race) is the featured event at 350 yards. Jess Burner Memorial Handicap winner Here Kittykittykitty rates prominently.