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Bella De Ball scores upset in New Mexico State Fair Futurity

Futurity is the richest race for state-bred 2-year-old quarter horses in America
Vintage Bordeaux (blue blinkers) and jockey Luis Flores-Garcia narrowly edge out Just En King in the $435,000 New Mexico State Fair Quarter Horse Derby (RG-3) Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023 at Albuquerque Downs. (Coady Photography)

ALBUQUERQUE - Earning the biggest stakes win of her career, Bella De Ball and jockey Alan Hernandez got home on top at odds of more than 11-to-1 in Sunday’s New Mexico State Fair Quarter Horse Futurity (R-Grade 2) at Albuquerque Downs, capturing the richest futurity exclusively for state-breds in the nation.

Trained by Wes Giles for owners M J Farms, Bella De Ball narrowly prevailed in a thrilling finish, edging Bad King and jockey Francisco Calderon to win by a head, racing 400 yards in a fast time of 19.4 seconds.

The 2-year-old daughter of Eye Am King broke alertly from post five and battled for the lead shortly after the start. She dueled with Meiomi Noir for the first 150 yards, began to inch clear midway down the stretch and held off the late charge of the runner-up, giving her three wins from five career starts.

The NM State Fair QH Futurity, with a purse of just more than $1.2 million, is the richest race for New Mexico-breds of any kind in the state. Bella De Ball, a winner two starts back in the Zia Juvenile Invitational at Ruidoso Downs on July 23, earned her way into the Futurity when she won her trial heat here on Sept. 22.

Bella De Ball and jockey Alan Hernandez (inside, green cap) narrowly prevail over her rivals in the $1.2 million New Mexico State Fair Quarter Horse Futurity, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023 at Albuquerque Downs. (Coady Photography)

Giles, currently atop the trainer standings at the current meet at Albuquerque Downs and one of the region’s most successful quarter horse trainers, was also represented in the Futurity by third-place finisher Miss Hi Tide with jockey Adrian Ramos aboard.

Claiming the lion’s share of the purse, Bella De Ball earned more than $604,000 for winning the Futurity, bringing her lifetime bankroll to more than $632,000.

Dismissed by a majority of the bettors at odds of 11.60-to-1, Bella De Ball returned $25.20 to her winning backers. The $2 exacta with Bad King paid back $188.80. Miss Hi Tide was just a neck in front of fourth-place finisher Mr Jess Effort and jockey Luis Flores-Garcia.

Crispyn, who was sent off as the 19-to-10 favorite in the race for trainer Manuel Rodriguez and jockey Esgar Ramirez, broke a bit sideways from the two post, loomed a factor briefly before giving way in the final yards, eventually finishing ninth in the 10-horse field.

The NM State Fair QH Futurity was one of several stakes races on the Sunday afternoon program at Albuquerque Downs. Here’s a brief recap of some of the highlights.

Vintage Bordeaux wins State Fair QH Derby

Vintage Bordeaux earned his first career stakes win Sunday afternoon when he scored a narrow win in the New Mexico State Fair Quarter Horse Derby under jockey Luis Flores-Garcia.

Owned by the Tungsten Racing Partnership and trained by Marco Flores, Vintage Bordeaux broke a bit to his left coming out of the gate and impeded briefly with KJ Daddys Money to his inside shortly after the start. The 3-year-old son of Eye Am King recovered quickly and battled for the lead, eventually holding on to a narrow victory over Just En King and jockey Alfredo Sigala, racing 400 yards in a time of 19.12 seconds.

The stewards conducted an inquiry into the start of the race, but made no change to the order of finish.

Vintage Bordeaux, now a five-time winner from 14 career starts and earner of more than $282,000, qualified for the Derby when he won his trial heat here on Sept. 23. All five of his career victories have come this year, including a pair of starts at Sunland Park.

Sent off as the 3.10-to-1 second choice in the wagering, Vintage Bordeaux returned $8.20 to his winning backers. The $2 exacta with Just En King returned $109.20. White Knight finished third under Daniel Torres with Fine Am Eye and jockey Bryan Candanosa rounding out the top four finishers.

Flash Bak (inside) with Francisco Calderon in the irons, proves best ahead of his rivals including KJ Desperado (8) in the Downs at Albuquerque Fall Championship, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023 at Albuquerque Downs. (Coady Photography)
Flash Bak prevails in Fall Quarter Horse Championship

Valeriano Racing Stables LLC’s Flash Bak scored a narrow victory Sunday in the Grade 1, $350,000 Downs at Albuquerque Fall Quarter Horse Championship Stakes, snapping a four-race losing streak and preventing a moment of racing history.

Ridden by Francisco Calderon, Flash Bak broke a bit slow from the gate but made up ground along the inside, dueling for the lead inside the final 100 yards before holding off a late charge from post time favorite KJ Desperado. Flash Bak held on to win by a head, racing 440 yards in a time of 20.92 seconds, just a shade off the track record set by Posies Woodette in 2010.

Flash Bak, a Missouri-bred son of Moonin the Eagle trained by Santos Carrizales, Jr., earned his 10th win from 27 lifetime starts. Prior to Sunday, his most recent victory came last December in the $100,000 Zia Park Championship. He was a close second in the $250,000 All American Gold Cup at Ruidoso Downs last time out.

The victory by Flash Bak prevented runner-up KJ Desperado from becoming the first quarter horse in racing history to amass $3 million in career earnings. The Arizona-bred son of Apollitical Jess came into the race as the all-time leader in career earnings with a shade more than $2.9 million. Instead, his quest will need to wait another day.

Flash Bak earned his first win from five starts in 2023, and pushes his lifetime earnings to more than $1.4 million. Sent off as the second choice in the wagering at odds of 3-to-1, Flash Bak returned $8 to his winning backers. KJ Desperado settled for second with Adrian Ramos aboard, the $2 exacta with the top pair returned $14.80.

Hesa Party Wagon finished third with Christian Ramos aboard, while Alamo Lake rounded out the top four finishers.

Milk It and jockey Francisco Amparan hold off the late charge of Community Leader to win the New Mexico State Fair Thoroughbred Futurity at Albuquerque Downs, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023 at Albuquerque Downs. (Coady Photography)
Milk It proves best in State Fair Thoroughbred Futurity

Earning his second win from as many starts, Milk It made every pole a winning one on Sunday afternoon, proving best in the $294,000 New Mexico State Fair Thoroughbred Futurity, the richest race for 2-year-old thoroughbreds in the state.

Ridden by Francisco Amparan for trainer Greg Green, who also owns the horse with R. Dwain Yarbar and M.C.M. Stables, LLC, Milk It got away quickly from the starting gate and dueled with longshot Fauzeta's Flame through a fast opening half-mile in 45.04 seconds. Heavily favored Community Leader, who broke a step slowly leaving the gate under jockey Felipe Valdez, easily made up ground on the far turn and loomed a menacing threat as the field turned for home.

Amparan allowed Milk It to float out over to the middle of the track as the pair straightened away for home, leaving Community Leader to continue his late charge while a length behind the leader. Milk It had enough late energy to cross the wire three-quarters of a length in front, racing six furlongs in a time of 1 minute, 9.75 seconds.

Milk It, a 2-year-old son of Shame On Charlie, qualified for the Futurity when he won a trial race while making his career debut on Sept. 24. The win pads his career earnings to more than $152,000.

Sent off as the 2.30-to-1 second choice in the wagering, Milk It paid back $6.60 to his winning backers. Community Leader, who finished more than seven lengths better than the rest of the field, completed the $2 exacta which returned $12.60. Way To Rule finished third under Daniel Vergara while Mark It Down and Oscar Ceballos rounded out the top four finishers.

Racing resumes on Wednesday at Albuquerque Downs. Locally, fans can watch and wager at SunRay Park and Casino. Among the highlight races this coming weekend are Saturday’s $200,000 Downs at Albuquerque Handicap as well as a pair of quarter horse stakes races on Sunday including the $295,000 La Fiesta Futurity. For more information, check out the track’s official page at equibase.com.