Thursday, February 21, 2013
The New Mexico Racing Commission held its monthly meeting at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday, February 21.
New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association executive director Anna Fay Davis gave the commission her race-a-day report for Sunland Park Racetrack, which opened its 76-day meet on December 7. During the first 40 days of the meet, the track ran 192 New Mexico-bred races – 141 for Thoroughbreds and 51 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 195 state-bred races during the first 40 days of its 2011-12 season, 137 for Thoroughbreds and 58 for Quarter Horses.
An average of 4.80 New Mexico-bred races per day have been run during the first 40 days of the current Sunland Park meet, which represents a decrease of less than 2 percent from the average of 4.88 state-bred races per day contested during the first 40 days of the track's 2011-12 season.
Also, during the first 20 days of the Sunland meet, a total of 122 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which 17 (14 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, four were Thoroughbreds and 13 were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $18,284.60 were paid to the owners of these horses.
Commissioner Ray Willis, chairman of the commission's medication committee, said that the issue of shock-wave therapy was discussed in depth at the most recent committee meeting on Wednesday.
“We couldn't reach an agreement as to where we need to be on this, but representatives of the Jockeys' Guild and veterinarians are going to come back with a recommendation in time for our April committee meeting” he added. “We also discussed the clenbuterol issue, and we decided to allow the suspension (of its use) to end in April and to go back to the old medication limits, unless we come up with a different allowable (level) by that time.”
Willis also reported on a recent track safety meeting held at Sunland Park. He said that the track has seen a 25-percent decrease in the number of catastrophic injuries when compared to the same period last year.
“The track is in good shape, according to the jockeys, trainers, and owners who were at the meeting,” Willis said. “Also, we just found out today that Sunland Park was re-accredited by the NTRA's Safety and Integrity Alliance, and that's something that all of us in New Mexico racing can be proud of.”
In his monthly report to the commission, New Mexico Horsemen's Association executive director Jack McGrail said that his organization was also pleased with the track condition at Sunland Park.
“I wasn't able to attend the meeting, but the reports I get from the horsemen there indicate that the track is in good shape,” McGrail said. “Also, through agreements made with TVG and the Las Vegas Dissemination Company, Sunland has been able to turn around its decline in simulcast handle. The simulcast handle has gone from being down 18 percent to now being down 7 percent, and that's an encouraging step in the right direction.”
One issue the NMHA is currently dealing with is the impending transition between the meet at SunRay Park, which ends June 23, and the meet at The Downs at Albuquerque, which opens August 2.
“We were hoping that (Expo New Mexico) wouldn't enforce its contract with the Junior Arabian Horse Show, but it will be intact,” McGrail said. “That means horsemen won't be able to move their horses to the barn area until just before the Albuquerque meet starts.”
McGrail also asked the commission to consider allowing horsemen to renew their state trainers' licenses at the commission office in Albuquerque, rather than requiring them to travel to the racetrack for approval from the stewards. Commission executive director Vince Mares said he would take the request into consideration.
“This would apply only to renewals,” McGrail said. “Trainers getting their first licenses would still need to have them approved by track stewards.”
Representing the Jockeys' Guild, attorney Mindy Coleman congratulated Sunland Park on its re-accreditation by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. She also told the commission that she is working with track management and the track's jockey colony on getting all riders enrolled in the Guild's health information system.
“The health information system contains a medical history of jockeys, so that if a rider is injured and is unconscious at the time of the injury, medical personnel have access to that information,” Coleman said. “It provides a complete medical history of the jockeys, including known allergies to medications and pre-existing conditions.
“The first day this went into effect, jockey John Velazquez went down in a spill at Keeneland, and neither his agent, Angel Cordero Jr, nor his wife were at the track that day,” she added. “But medical personnel at the track had the information they needed.”
The commission also approved Rafael Verde to be general manager of Zia Park Racetrack and its Black Gold Casino in Hobbs. Verde, 40, has more than 18 years of regional gaming experience. He replaces Brent Willits, who has retired from Penn National Gaming Inc., the owner of Zia Park.
In his presentation to the commission, Verde announced Zia Park's plans to build an on-site hotel.
“A lot of our out-of-town guests want to spend the weekend with us, but they don't because they can't find hotel accommodations,” Verde said.
Verde was named general manager of Zia Park effective October 1, 2012. He joined Penn National Gaming after serving nearly two years as chief executive officer of Playcity, Grupo Televisa's gaming division. While at Televisa, Verde oversaw 20 slot parlors operating approximately 5,700 slot machines across Mexico, and he was leading a division-wide effort to update the properties.
Prior to joining Grupo Televisa, Verde spent 12 years at Pinnacle Entertainment in various roles of increasing responsibility. He expressed to the commission a commitment to Zia Park's racing product.
“We want to improve our image regarding our track conditions, and we're making a commitment to this,” Verde said. “We want to be a good neighbor in our community, and we want to be the number one racetrack in New Mexico.”
Also during the meeting, the commission:
*Approved Sunland Park's request to revise its purse distribution schedule so that the owners of the last-place horse in a race have enough money to cover their jockey-mount fee and any starter fees.
*Approved Rick Baugh to be Sunland Park's assistant general manager, effective March 1. On April 1, Baugh will assume the position of general manager, replacing Harold Payne, who will be retiring.
*Approved SunRay Park's first condition book and its condition book officials, director of racing Lonnie Barber and racing secretary Jim Collins.
*Approved Dr. Steve England to be the commission's veterinarian during the SunRay Park meet.
*Approved The Downs at Albuquerque's capital improvement priority list, which includes replacing the roof of the existing grandstand. Representing The Downs, general manager Don Cook told the commission that the track still hopes to hold night racing during its 2013 meet.
The next regular monthly commission meeting will be held on Thursday, March 28, 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.