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Tucum posts upset victory in Casey Darnell Stakes

Longest shot on the board earns second career stakes win, snaps 12-race losing streak
Tucum and jockey Luis Rodriguez cross the finish line ahead of their competition in the $100,000 Casey Darnell Stakes at Albuquerque Downs on Saturday. (Coady Photography/Courtesy New Mexico Horse Breeders Association)

ALBUQUERQUE – Sent off at odds of nearly 17-1, Tucumcari Thoroughbreds’ Tucum scored a giant upset Saturday afternoon in the $100,000 Casey Darnell Stakes at Albuquerque Downs, winning virtually gate-to-wire under jockey Luis Rodriguez.

Trained by Simon Buechler, Tucum earned his second career stakes victory, and in the process, snapped a 12-race losing streak which dated back to his only other stakes win, when he won the 2021 New Mexico Classic Cup Derby Championship Stakes at Zia Park. The New Mexico-bred son of King Bull finished second in his most recent start, facing much softer company in a 1000-yard race over this course earlier this month.

Tucum raced wide from his outside post, but battled for the lead just a few jumps out of the starting gate. He got a length ahead of Noname Bandit approaching the far turn and inched clear to lead the field by three lengths turning for home.

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Tucum crossed the wire 1¼ lengths ahead of Strawberry Whisky, ridden by Aldo Arboleda, who was more than a length clear of third place finisher Sambas Mark and jockey Karlo Lopez. Tucum ran 5½ furlongs in a final time of 1 minute, 3.2 seconds.

The 5-year-old gelding improved his lifetime record to four wins from 22 career starts. The winner’s share of the purse pushes his career earnings to more than $210,000.

Tucum, the longest shot on the board in the 10-horse field, returned $35.80 to his winning backers. The $2 exacta with Strawberry Whisky returned $341.80.

Bella Dona and jockey Luis Fuentes win the New Mexico Breeders Oaks at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino in March 2022. (Coady Photography)

Racing resumes at Albuquerque Downs on Wednesday. The $100,000 Carlos Salazar Stakes, for New Mexico-bred older fillies and mares, will be the featured event on Saturday.

Bella Dona, a 12-time winner and earner of more than $768,000 in her career, will be one of the likely favorites in the Salazar. Trained by Buechler for owners Robert Driggers, Del Rae Driggers and Ben Lee Ivey, Bella Dona won the Salazar Stakes last year while in the midst of a nine-race win streak that saw her win the award for leading New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association’s 3-year-old filly.

Still looking for her first win from three starts in 2023, Bella Dona drew post two in the Salazar, where she will be ridden by Luis Fuentes.

Post time for Saturday’s $100,000 Carlos Salazar Stakes is scheduled for 4:50 p.m. Locally, fans can watch and wager from SunRay Park and Casino. For more information, check out the track’s official page at equibase.com