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Fincher has Runaway Ghost Back in Action

By Mary Dixon Reynolds


Trainer Todd Fincher has once promising colt back from injury and thriving.


The early morning sun was only a promise as the black Dodge Ram drove into Sunland Park this past Monday and stopped at barn J-3. Six feet tall with a lanky build, trainer Todd Fincher, stepped out of his truck as he finished off his bottle of water. He began his daily routine with his usual laser focus.

One of the top thoroughbred trainers in the Southwest, the 47 year-old had, arguably, his most successful day in his training career Sunday. As a North Carolinian, I first noticed Fincher last year when trainee Runaway Ghost was on the Derby trail. The son of Ghostzapper won the Sunland Park Derby, garnering 50 points which earned him a spot in the Kentucky Derby.


All the preparations had been made, then a few days prior to their scheduled flight to Louisville, the trainer noticed something troubling after a morning breeze. Runaway Ghost had a medium to large fracture on his right front leg and a small fracture on the left front leg.  A procedure was performed called “drilling the shin” on both front legs. After a month’s stay in the hospital in Elgin, Texas, Runaway Ghost recuperated at Crystal Springs in Tularosa, New Mexico. Fincher took plenty of time for the horse to heal. He resumed training September 1 of last year, taking an unhurried, deliberate routine.


The Joe Peacock owned thoroughbred made his comeback on February 2 in the Fort Bliss Stakes at Sunland Park. He won without ever being seriously threatened during the race. He registered an E speed figure of 112 which was a career best. Runaway Ghost, now almost a year older, was bigger and stronger. He is thriving under Fincher’s watchful eye.


Fincher has been around horses since birth he said. His parents were trainers in Colorado, later relocating to New Mexico. Maintaining only on a diet of watermelon, Fincher began as a jockey and later transitioned into his current career. One of his earlier successes was the dam of Runaway Ghost, Rose’s Desert, also owned by Joe Peacock. Born in New Mexico, she raced in mostly state-bred races. She broke her maiden in her second race. Her record was an impressive 15:10-5-0.


Last Sunday, the temperature was a pleasant 65 degrees at Sunland Park. The track was more crowded than usual as the 19th running of the MINE THAT BIRD Derby, a potential stepping stone to this year’s Kentucky Derby, was on the schedule. In barn J-3, Fincher went through his fastidious preparations for each of the 5 horses he had racing that day.


It began early as Fincher trainee, Wedding Dance, was in Race 1, an allowance optional claiming race, and ended up in the winner’s circle. Let It Roll, another Fincher horse, came in 5th in the same race. Another horse from the Fincher barn, Golden Dance, ran 4th in the following race.

A lot of people were there to see the most popular horse that had raced at Sunland Park since Mine That Bird. Last year, Runaway Ghost had many New Mexicans believing lightning may strike twice before his injury and people had followed his progress since the surgery and layoff.


Sunday, he was making his second start back, in the Curribot Stakes. He got away well and stalked the pacesetter before passing him and going on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Initially, Fincher wanted to put more space between his first and second races but the horse was training “lights out.” His next race has not been decided, but he came out of the Curribot Stakes fine.


Two races later were the marquee race, the Mine That Bird Derby. It is the prep for the Sunland Park Derby whose winner is practically guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Derby. Fincher had a dark bay gelding named, Hustle Up, entered in it. He also is listed as one of the breeders of the horse, while ownership belongs to Dale F. Taylor Racing LLC, Bobby McQueen, and Suzanne Kirby. The 3 year-old had won 7 out of 9 starts before Sunday, when he notched another win with his front running style.


This victory was extraordinarily sweet as it was Finch’s 1000th career win.


In a phone conversation Monday, I asked Fincher if he had come down from his successful day. He replied,


“I’m already back at work. Every day is a new day in this business and yesterday is soon forgotten.”


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