The Hobbs, N.M., track showcased its newest stakes on a program of seven stakes worth $1.1 million. The card included the $200,000 Zia Park Derby, won by Northlands Park invader For Cash.
Zia handled a track record $1,556,211 on its 11-race program from all sources, eclipsing the mark of $1,019,999 set on New Mexico Cup Day in 2009. Of the amount wagered on the live card Wednesday, $54,097 was bet ontrack and $1,502,114 offtrack. Zia opened in 2005.
Zia had planned for the Oaks to be run on Sunday, but a winter storm forced the cancellation of racing last weekend and the stakes that had been split between Saturday and Sunday all landed on a special Wednesday card.
Unusual Way ($6.80) and jockey Edwin Maldonado dictated the terms throughout in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks, as they doled out fractions of 24.64 seconds for the opening quarter, 48.97 seconds for the half-mile and 1:12.79 for six furlongs. Unusual Way separated herself from the field through the stretch to cover the distance on a track rated fast in 1:44.01.
“That was very impressive,” said winning trainer Jeff Bonde. “All day people were saying the speed was folding up. And then I looked at her final time and it was almost two seconds faster than the colts. I thought it was a huge performance . . . even though I’m biased!”
But the facts back up Bonde’s enthusiasm. In the 1 1/16-mile Zia Derby, which went one race prior, For Cash rallied from next to last to win in 1:45.17.
Gold Medal Dancer was the Oaks favorite and she won a photo for second by a neck over Oscar Party. The remaining order of finish was Sister Ginger in fourth, followed by Comic Kitty, Lady of Luck, I Am Miss Brown, Midnight Flute, and Key to My Warrior.
Unusual Way won the fourth stakes race of her career in the Zia Park Oaks. Overall, she has won 5 of 14 starts, and the $180,000 she earned Wednesday pushed her career bankroll to $588,360.
Unusual Way, a daughter of Unusual Heat, races for Edward Brown Jr. and Phil Lebherz. She was bred in California by Thomas W. Bachman.
Bonde said plans for Unusual Way are to be determined, with her next move to fly home to Southern California.
Zia, which is owned by Penn Gaming, created the Oaks with the purpose of running the kind of race that had the potential to land the young track its first graded race for Thoroughbreds.