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Prospect To The Top Takes Gold Cup

Last year’s All American Derby runner-up returns to the winner’s circle at Ruidoso Downs.

September 2, 2012

Joel Tavarez’s Prospect To The Top stamped himself as an older horse to watch with a solid victory over two-time champion Noconi in the $40,000 All American Gold Cup (G3) on Sunday at Ruidoso Downs. With Oscar Rincon in the saddle for conditioner Ralph Muniz, the 4-year-old son of Coronas Prospect grabbed the early lead and never gave it up before hitting the wire three-quarters of a length in front of Noconi, who was making the final start of his career. Prospect To The Top clocked 440 yards in :21.275.

Bred by Sue May out of the Easily Smashed mare Cream To The Top, Prospect To The Top increased his earnings to $679,250 with his eighth win in 19 career starts. The Texas-bred earned his fourth career graded stakes, and he also finished second to Llano Teller in last year’s All American Derby (G1) at Ruidoso Downs before being named champion 3-year-old colt. Prospect To The Top stood his first season at stud this year before returning to the races.

“I don't know what to say,” said Muniz. “He's just an exceptional horse. He is a champion. I felt bad in the last race (in which he finished second in the Grade 3 Mr Jet Moore Handicap on August 5 in his 2012 debut). I think I let him down a little bit. He needed a race before and I put him in a stakes race. I should have put him in an allowance to prep the horse. I thought I had enough horse to go ahead and win it. He showed today he is for a real; he is a champion. Noconi is a nice horse, taking nothing away from him. He's awesome.”

Muniz said Prospect To The Top would be pointed to the Refrigerator Handicap (G1) at Lone Star Park.

Bred and owned by R.D. Hubbard and Johnny T.L. Jones’ J Bar 7 Ranch LLC, the 7-year-old Noconi retires with a career record of 36-15-8-5 and earnings of $1,348,959. The Oklahoma-bred gelding by Mr Jess Perry earned millionaire status the hard way as he had only limited success as a 2-year-old before blossoming as a 3-year-old and beyond.

Noconi had won the last two editions of the All American Gold Cup, and his career highlights include victories in the All American Derby (G1), Zia Park Championship (G1) and The Championship at Sunland Park (G1). He earned champion 3-year-old gelding honors in 2008 and the champion aged gelding title in 2009. Noconi is set to spend his retirement at Jones’ ranch in Quanah, Texas, in a barn constructed for him.

“He’s been unbelievable,” said Hubbard. “He’s been a great one. I’m sad to see him go, but it’s time.”

“It's a bittersweet moment,” said Lisa Saumell, assistant to trainer Paul Jones. “I've been with him for six years. The goal is to get him broke enough to lead the post parade next year (for perhaps the All American Futurity or Derby).”

DM Streakin Thru Fire, in his first start since last September when he ran ninth in the All American Derby, crossed the wire third. The Walk Thru Fire gelding finished third in the Rainbow Derby (G1) last year and a close fifth in the 2010 All American Futurity (G1).

“After breaking through the front of the gate (causing him to be reloaded), he seemed to lose a little bit of his edge,” said DM Streakin Thru Fire’s rider G.R. Carter. “He finished really strong to run third. I was really happy with him in his first trip back.”

Sir Seth, Flyin Fish and Jess He Is completed the order of finish. Unashamed was fractious in the starting gate and was scratched.