Sunday, June 30, 2013
The New Mexico Racing Commission held its monthly meeting at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday, June 27.
New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association executive director Anna Fay Davis gave the commission her race-a-day report for the first 36 days of the SunRay Park meet in Farmington, which began its 39-day season on April 19. During the first 36 days, the track ran 114 New Mexico-bred races – 73 for Thoroughbreds and 41 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 141 state-bred races during the first 36 days of its 2012 meet, 100 for Thoroughbreds and 41 for Quarter Horses.
An average of 3.17 New Mexico-bred races per day were run during the first 36 days of this year's SunRay meet, a decrease of 24 percent from the 3.92 state-bred races per day contested during the first 36 days of the track's 2012 season.
Also, during the first 20 days of this year's SunRay Park meet, a total of 264 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which 81 (31 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, 50 were Thoroughbreds and 31 were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $40,950.40 were paid to the owners of these horses.
The SunRay Park meet ended on Sunday, June 23.
Davis also reported that, during the 16 days of the Ruidoso Downs meet, which opened on May 24, a total of 60 New Mexico-bred races have been run, 37 for Thoroughbreds and 23 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 62 state-bred races during the first 16 days of its 2012 season, 40 for Thoroughbreds and 22 for Quarter Horses.
An average of 3.75 New Mexico-bred races per day were run during the first 16 days of this year's Ruidoso meet, a slight decrease of 3 percent from the 3.88 state-bred races per day carded during the first 16 days of Ruidoso's 2012 season.
Also, during the first four days of the 2013 Ruidoso Downs meet, a total of 19 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which eight (43 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, six were Thoroughbreds and two were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $4,151.80 were paid to the owners of these horses.
Also during the meeting, commission chairman Robert Doughty III reported on the status of the state's sixth racino license, which became open when the New Mexico Supreme Court in May refused to hear a case brought forth by Michael Moldenhauer, who lost his state racing and gaming licenses when he failed to meet deadlines to open a planned racino in Raton.
Doughty said that the commission is “currently reviewing the need” for a sixth track. He asked all the industry stakeholders – horsemen (owners and trainers), breeders, racetracks, and the Jockeys' Guild – to be prepared to make a presentation to the commission during its next regular monthly meeting on July 18 in Albuquerque.
“We'd like to hear comments from these entities, but that would just be the first step,” Doughty said. “After the applications (for the sixth racino) come in, we'll offer plenty of opportunity for further public comment. If we're expecting so many people to attend our July meeting that we need to hold it at a larger facility, then we will consider that option.”
Representing the New Mexico Horsemen's Association, board member Joe Dee Brooks of Levelland, Texas, and president Eric Mikkelson of Belen, New Mexico, reported on the NMHA's search for a new executive director. The position became vacant when Jack McGrail left the post, effective June 1, to become executive director of the Oregon Racing Commission.
Brooks said that the NMHA has hired a firm, the Franktown, Colorado-based MJM Global Search Inc., to aid it in its search for an executive director.
“We have no timeline on our search,” Brooks said. “We feel that it's important that we find a quality candidate. This firm has placed many people in positions in the racing industry, and we're confident that they are a reputable organization.
“We currently don't have a job description available, but this firm is helping us with one,” he added. “We will have the job description completed before we start accepting applications.”
Brooks also said that the NMHA is considering a restructuring of its organization, including the addition of a field representative that would work more closely with the state's five racetracks.
“We feel we need to be more proactive with the regard to the issues effecting our industry in the state,” he said.
Also at the meeting:
*The commission approved race dates for the 2014 season. Sunland Park will conduct a 76-day meet from December 6-April 15, with racing four days a week on a Tuesday and Friday-Sunday schedule. The only deviations from this schedule will be Thursday racing on December 26, January 2, and January 30. There will be no racing on Super Bowl Sunday, February 2.
Zia Park's 56-day meet will run September 6-December 2, with live racing on a Saturday-Tuesday schedule, and Wednesdays added in November. Ruidoso Downs' will conduct a 60-day season from May 23-September 1, and The Downs at Albuquerque will hold a 54-day season, including a 17-day New Mexico State Fair meet.
After the NMHA and SunRay Park management couldn't agree on 2014 dates – the NMHA asked for a 44-day meet with nine races a day, while track management countered with a 36-day proposal with 10 races per day – the commission ruled that the Farmington track would run 39 days with nine races a day, the same as this year, in the spring. The exact dates will be announced later.
*The commission approved Sunland Park's 2013-14 stakes schedule. Sunland director of racing Dustin Dix said the track's stakes schedule would be similar to its 2012-13 schedule, with one major change being the moving of the KHEY Country Sprint Stakes for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds from April to January.
“Also, we will be adding a $25,000 starter fee for the Sunland Derby,” Dix added. “We think this will give horsemen who missed earlier payments a chance to still use the race as a prep for the Triple Crown races and improve the quality of the field.”
*Zia Park management, including general manager Rafael Verde and director of property operations Ahmad Mughni, updated the commission on the status of its planned five-story, 155-room hotel, which will be located east of the track paddock.
Mughni said that, after it is completed, the hotel will be the largest such facility in Hobbs. It will include three 800-square foot VIP suites with balconies overlooking the racetrack, a breakfast facility, and a fitness center.
Zia Park management hopes to break ground on July 30, and estimates the project will take 15 months to complete at a cost of $26.2 million.
*Ruidoso Downs general manager Shaun Hubbard reported that on-track wagering is up 3 percent over the same period last year. Also, revenues at the track's Billy The Kid Casino were up 33 percent in May, which will enable Ruidoso Downs to increase its Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred trial purses from $3,500 to $6,000, effective with the Rainbow Futurity (G1) trials on July 3-4.
There will be 26 Rainbow Futurity trials contested over two days, compared to the 25 Ruidoso Futurity (G1) trials that were all run on the same day, May 24.
Representing the Jockeys' Guild, southwest regional manager John Beech welcomed this news.
“It's tough on the jockeys to have to ride 25 races in one day,” Beech said. “This move to two days of trials will benefit the riders, especially those who ride a lot of races.”
*The commission approved the racing officials and wagering format for The Downs at Albuquerque meet, which will open on August 2. Also, the track will increase its insurance coverage for jockeys and exercise riders from $500,000 in 2012 to $1 million this year.
Live racing at the Albuquerque track will take place on a Wednesday and Friday-Sunday schedule. Post time will be 1:30 p.m. (MDT) on weekends and 2:30 on weekdays.
*The commission approved the meeting dates for the rest of this year. All of the meetings will be held in Albuquerque on the following dates: July 18, August 22, September 12, October 17, and November 21.
The next regular monthly commission meeting will be held on Thursday, July 18, 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.