Friday, April 20, 2012
The New Mexico Racing Commission held its monthly meeting at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday, April 19.
New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association executive director Anna Fay Davis gave the commission her race-a-day reports for Sunland Park, which ended its 2011-12 meet on Tuesday. During Sunland's 77-day season, the track ran 410 New Mexico-bred races – 286 for Thoroughbreds and 124 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 438 state-bred races during its 2010-11 meet, 303 for Thoroughbreds and 135 for Quarter Horses.
Also, during the first 52 days of the Sunland Park meet – through the week ending March 4 – a total of 288 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which 77 (27 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, eight were Thoroughbreds and 69 were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $68,862.30 were paid to the owners of these horses.
In his monthly report to the commission, New Mexico Horsemen's Association executive director Jack McGrail congratulated Sunland Park on what he called “an excellent meet.” He specifically mentioned Sunland Derby Day, March 25, during which a single-day state and track record $3,586,225 was wagered on the 13-race all-Thoroughbred program.
“That's a tribute to their marketing of the day and its high-quality racing,” McGrail said.
McGrail also said that he is “greatly anticipating” the opening of the 42-day SunRay Park meet on Friday, April 20.
“SunRay's available purses are about 90 percent of what they were at this time last year, but that's a good sign considering the new competition they have up there,” McGrail added, referring to the opening of the nearby Northern Edge Casino on the Navajo reservation on January 16.
In addition, McGrail cited the recent New York Times article which painted New Mexico racing in a negative light. Though he felt the story inaccurately portrayed the state of the racing industry in New Mexico, he added it did contain some elements of truth.
“There are some issues that all stakeholders in New Mexico need to address – this isn't a horsemen's problem, a breeders' problem, or a racetrack problem – but I see this is an opportunity,” McGrail said. “I think this (racing) commission is forward thinking and has the fortitude to deal with many of the issues we do have.
“We all realize what an economic engine the racing industry is to New Mexico, but it's more than that,” he added. “The people in our industry care deeply about their livestock. I visit the stable areas of the tracks frequently, and I see how well cared for the horses are, but we need to convey to the public that the image that our horses aren't well taken care of is inaccurate.”
In closing, McGrail announced that the NMHA's annual awards banquet will be held in Farmington on Saturday, May 12, and that the stabling issue for horsemen between the closing of the SunRay meet on June 26 and the opening of The Downs at Albuquerque season on August 10 has been resolved, though he offered no details.
In other business, the commission approved the appointment of Dr. Jess Unruh as its veterinarian during this year's 61-day Ruidoso Downs meet, which runs from May 25-September 3. It also approved the appointment of Kenneth Hart and David Keiter as two of the stewards during the meet. The third steward will be announced during the next monthly meeting on May 24.
The commission also adopted the recommendation of the New Mexico Livestock Board to change its rule regarding the frequency of Equine Piroplasmosis testing for horses racing in the state. For more specific information, visit the livestock board's website at www.nmlbonline.com.
In addition, the commission approved SunRay Park's request to increase insurance coverage for its jockeys from $500,000 to $1 million. Lonnie Barber, the track's director of racing, said that the $126,840 cost of the $1-million policy isn't much higher than the premium for the $500,000 coverage.
“Given the increased media spotlight on track safety, I think it's a good idea to increase the coverage,” he added.
In his report to the commission, The Downs at Albuquerque general manager Don Cook discussed the renovations being made to the south end of his track's grandstand. Last week, the track opened a 1,800-square foot VIP simulcast room to replace the Starting Gate Suite, which was demolished along with the executive offices and restrooms on the south end of the grandstand.
The commission approved The Downs at Albuquerque's 2012 stakes schedule. The one major change to the schedule is that Lineage Day has been moved from the third to the fourth Sunday in August to avoid a conflict with the August 17-18 New Mexico-Bred Yearling Sale at Ruidoso Downs.
This season's Lineage Day races, featuring nine $50,000 stakes for New Mexico-bred Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, will be held on August 26.
The commission will hold a special meeting at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Wednesday, May 2, to discuss the adoption of Association of Racing Commissioners International rules and penalties. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m.
The next regular monthly commission meeting will be held on Thursday, May 24, at the commission headquarters at 4900 Alameda NE in Albuquerque. The executive session will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will be followed by the public session at 10:30 a.m. For more information, visit the commission's website at www.nmrc.state.nm.us, or call the commission office at (505) 222-0700.