Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The New Mexico Racing Commission held its monthly meeting at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday, April 25.
New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association executive director Anna Fay Davis gave the commission her race-a-day report for Sunland Park Racetrack, which concluded its 2012-13 season on April 16. During the 76-day meet, the track ran 369 New Mexico-bred races – 262 for Thoroughbreds and 107 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 410 state-bred races during its 2011-12 meet, which ran 77 days, 286 for Thoroughbreds and 124 for Quarter Horses.
An average of 4.86 New Mexico-bred races per day were run during the Sunland Park season, which represented a decrease of 9 percent from the average of 5.33 state-bred races per day contested during the track's 2011-12 meet.
Also, during the first 63 days of the 2012-13 Sunland meet, a total of 468 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which 96 (21 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, 27 were Thoroughbreds and 69 were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $68,005.30 were paid to the owners of these horses.
NMRC executive director Vince Mares introduced Max Sabado, who has recently joined the commission staff as an investigator. Mares reported that Sabado has 33 years of experience in the law enforcement field.
Also, representatives from Raton, Tucumcari, and Lordsburg were in attendance regarding the sixth racino license. Representing Raton, Christopher Reed the city's economic development director, said that it is a misconception that the city supports the efforts of Canadian developer Michael Moldenhauer to build a racino in Raton.
“Actually, we support the return of live horse racing to Raton, and we've found new investors who we hope will make that return a reality,” Reed said.
Speaking on behalf of Coronado Partners LLC, the group headed by Albuquerque businessman Don Chalmers who hopes to build a racino in Tucumcari, attorney Warren Frost said his group is prepared to amend the application it submitted in 2008, when the NMRC awarded the sixth license to the Raton group.
Frank Rodriguez, the mayor of Lordsburg, represented his city. A city of some 3,500 residents, Lordsburg is located on Interstate 10, about 15 miles east of the Arizona state line.
“We are also quite anxious to present our plan,” Rodriguez told the commission.
Commissioner Ray Willis of Roswell attended a track safety meeting at Sunland Park in early April. He said the meeting was well attended, despite the fact it was held toward the end of the track's 76-day meet.
“We got positive comments from everyone concerned, including the jockeys and trainers,” Willis said. “They did have some catastrophic injuries, but the number was down from the previous year.
“There were some questions about when the track would start work on its racing surface prior to the 2013-14 meet,” he added. “There is going to be some maintenance done on it year round, but they're looking at starting to get the track race-ready about 60-90 days before the start of the meet.”
Commissioner Gayla McCulloch of Farmington discussed the task force meeting, which she chaired and was held on April 24. She said that the commission is still planning on updating its website (http://nmrc.state.nm.us), but because of funding that update has been delayed.
“We also had a report from Anna Fay Davis about a panel discussion on the issue of mixed meets and straight (Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse) meets, which was held at the Breeders' Association's annual meeting in January,” McCulloch added. “We're going to continue to discuss this issue at our next task force meeting in July.”
Pete Herrera, a longtime sportswriter for Associated Press who currently works for SureBet Racing News and the New Mexico Horse Breeder magazine, shared his thoughts about how the state's racing industry could get positive press coverage from the local media. McCulloch said that Herrera thought the best way to do this was through promoting the human interest stories at the track.
“We also made positive progress toward resolving the 2013-14 race dates, and we plan to meet again next month,” she added. “Last year, we didn't start the race dates discussion for the next year until July.”
McCulloch also said she would be attending the SunRay Park track safety meeting in July.
Also during the meeting, the commission voted to extend its ban on Clenbuterol, saying it would wait on forthcoming recommendations from the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) before deciding whether to ban the drug permanently.
Clenbuterol dilates a horse's bronchial tubes and aids in respiration, but it can also build muscle as a steroid. NMRC chairman Robert Doughty III of Albuquerque said that the ARCI is considering whether to recommend banning Clenbuterol or setting a threshold level of the drug for racehorses.
Doughty said that when the ARCI sets its recommendations, the NMRC will decide whether to adopt them or set its own standard.
In his report to the commission, NMHA executive director Jack McGrail said that the general feeling was that the Sunland Park racing surface was safe during the track's recently concluded meet.
“There were some unfortunate incidents toward the end of the meet, but we don't know if they were track related,” he added. “We're also pleased to hear that the winner of the Sunland Derby (Govenor Charlie) was being pointed to the Kentucky Derby, and that the winner of the Sunland Park Oaks (Midnight Lucky) was being pointed to the Kentucky Oaks, and we appreciate that the track has decided to ask for the same number of race dates for its 2013-14 meet.”
McGrail added that Zia Park is in the process of hiring a track maintenance manager for its 2013 meet, which opens in September.
“We're pleased that the management of Zia Park, particularly Fred Hutton and Chris McErlean is looking for our input on this matter,” he said. “We feel (longtime New Mexico track superintendent) Tony Martinez would be the best person for the job, and we've let track management know that.”
Also during the meeting:
*The commission approved the following officials for the 60-day meet at Ruidoso Downs, which opens May 24: Dr. Jess Unruh, test barn veterinarian; Schwalm, Martos and Company, auditor; and David Keiter, Kenneth Hart, and Ed L'Ecuyer, board of stewards.
*Sunland Park director of racing Dustin Dix reported that, even though the track was down 19 percent in on-track handle and 13 percent in off-track handle during the first six weeks of its 2012-13 meet, business rebounded toward the end of the season and handle was down only 8.5 percent on track and close to even off-track.
Dix said that Sunland Park management would delay asking for approval of the track's 2013-14 stakes schedule.
“We'd like to see how our casino business does the next few months,” he added. “Our new general manager, Rick Baugh, is looking for ways to improve business, and we've hired a new promotions director for the casino. We had to cut purses last year, but we're optimistic we can correct that next year.”
*The commission approved Melissa Lopez as Sunland Park's nominations secretary. Lopez replaces Marilyn Aldoff, who has retired from the post.
*Zia Park director of racing Fred Hutton announced that a new race, a sprint for Thoroughbred fillies and mares, has been added to New Mexico Cup Day. He also said that the track has added an open $300,000 race for Thoroughbred 3-year-old fillies.
“The race will be called the Zia Park Oaks, and with where we are going to place it on the calendar, we're hopeful the race will give our track the national exposure that the Sunland Derby has done for Sunland Park,” Hutton added.
*Don Cook, general manager at The Downs at Albuquerque, reported that Scott Golightly will serve as the stall superintendent during the track's 2013 meet, which opens in August. A veteran racing official, Golightly has served in many capacities in recent years at the Albuquerque track, including racing secretary.
Cook also announced that this year's Lineage program for New Mexico-breds will be a two-day event. The Thoroughbred races will be held on Saturday, August 24, and the Quarter Horse races will be run the following day.
*The commission also approved The Downs at Albuquerque's purse schedule, though Cook said there is a possibility that purses will be increased if the track's new casino opens as scheduled in June.
“Chances are I'll be back in front of you later this year asking you to approve a purse increase,” Cook told the commission. “At least I hope to be.”
The next regular monthly commission meeting will be held on Thursday, May 16, at the commission headquarters 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 (505) 222-0700.