Thursday, January 26, 2012
The New Mexico Racing Commission held its first monthly meeting of 2012 at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Wednesday, January 25.
New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association executive director Anna Fay Davis gave the commission her race-a-day reports for Zia Park, which ended its 50-day meet on December 4, and Sunland Park, which opened its 77-day season on December 6. During its 2011 meet, Zia Park ran 269 New Mexico-bred races – 193 for Thoroughbreds and 76 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 263 state-bred races during its 53-day season in 2010, 176 for Thoroughbreds and 87 for Quarter Horses.
For purposes of comparison, Zia Park ran an average of 5.38 New Mexico-bred races during its 2011 meet, which represented an increase of 8 percent from the average of 4.97 state-bred races contested during its 2010 meet.
Also, a total of 337 New Mexico-bred Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses ran in open overnight races during the 2011 Zia Park meet, of which 81 (24 percent) finished first, second or third. Of this total, eight were Thoroughbreds and 73 were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $92,738.40 were paid to the owners of these horses.
During the first 28 days of the Sunland Park meet, December 6-January 22, the track ran 143 New Mexico-bred races, 99 for Thoroughbreds and 44 for Quarter Horses. Also, during the first eight days of the Sunland meet, a total of 28 state-bred horses raced in open overnight races, of which eight (29 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, four were Thoroughbreds and four were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $6,122 were paid to the owners of these horses.
The 2011-12 Sunland Park meet runs through Tuesday, April 17.
Davis also reported that the number of registered New Mexico-bred foals reached 1,377 in 2011 – 729 Quarter Horse and 648 Thoroughbreds – a decrease of 7 percent from the previous year's total of 1,476. The number of registered Quarter Horses dropped less than 1 percent (from 732), and the number of registered Thoroughbreds decreased 13 percent (from 744).
Also at the meeting, it was announced that Vince Mares has been appointed executive director of the Racing Commission. Mares had been serving in that post on an interim basis since the resignation of former executive director India Hatch several months ago.
Commissioner Ray Willis of Roswell reported on a recent track safety meeting held at Sunland Park.
“The meeting was well attended by horsemen, trainers, and jockeys, and the most interesting thing to me is that the number of catastrophic breakdowns and horses hauled off the track is less than half of what it was at the same time last year,” Willis said. “Everyone in attendance at the meeting was happy about this.”
Willis also said that training races for Quarter Horses will begin at Sunland on February 1, which he added, “will give owners and trainers a chance to get more work into their young horses so that they're ready to run when the 2-year-old races start in March.”
New Mexico Horsemen's Association executive director Jack McGrail reported to the commission that a resolution still has not been reached regarding the stabling of horses between the end of the SunRay Park meet on June 26 and the beginning of The Downs at Albuquerque season on August 11.
Due to a horse show on the Expo New Mexico grounds, the stable area at The Downs will not be open totally to race horses until after the show ends on July 29, or just two weeks before the race meet opens.
“I've had some conversations with (general manager) Don Cook, (vice president) Traci Wolf, and (president) Bill Windham, and we have a fundamental disagreement on several issues,” McGrail said.
SunRay Park director of racing Lonnie Barber said that it's possible his track would remain open for stabling and training, but that horsemen will be charged a stall rental fee.
“I'm not sure what the fee will be, but it would have to be something that will cover our expenses for staying open,” Barber added.
Cook said that The Downs at Albuquerque regularly has its track maintenance crew begin work on the racing surface 40 days before the meet starts, and he added that the track is ready for training 30 days before the season begins.
“But we'll have stalls for only 288 racehorses because of the horse show,” Cook said. “The contract the horse show has with Expo New Mexico states that they have access to every stall in the stable area and the racetrack.”
Commission chairman Robert Doughty encouraged all parties to reach a resolution on the stabling issue before the next commission meeting on February 23.
McGrail also commended management at Sunland Park for the condition of its racing surface.
“They began work on the track on September 10, which was six weeks before it opened for training,” he added. “That commitment is greatly appreciated by the horsemen. The lessons we can all take from this is that it takes a substantial amount of time and resources to make a track safe.”
The commission also approved a request by Sunland Park to add a 12th race to its racing programs starting on February 21, and it approved Ruidoso Downs' request to build 14 new box seats in its grandstand near the finish line. Estimated cost of the project is $48,000, and construction is expected to be completed by April 30.
The commission also adopted three rule changes recommended by its rules committee on January 24. For accurate information on these changes, contact the commission office at (505) 222-0700.
The next commission meeting will be held at the commission's headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday, February 23. The executive session will begin at 8:30 a.m., followed by a public session at 10:30. For more information, contact the commission at (505) 222-0700, or visit the commission's website at www.nmrc.state.nm.us.