Monday, April 01, 2013
The New Mexico Racing Commission held its monthly meeting at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday, March 28.
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 60 days of the meet, the track ran 295 New Mexico-bred races – 210 for Thoroughbreds and 85 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 315 state-bred races during the first 60 days of its 2011-12 season, 215 for Thoroughbreds and 100 for Quarter Horses.
An average of 4.92 New Mexico-bred races per day have been run during the first 60 days of the current Sunland Park meet, which represents a decrease of 6 percent from the average of 5.25 state-bred races per day contested during the first 60 days of the track's 2011-12 season.
Also, during the first 51 days of the Sunland meet, a total of 374 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which 71 (19 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, 17 were Thoroughbreds and 54 were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $55,917.30 were paid to the owners of these horses.
Commissioner Jerry Cosper of Los Lunas reported on some meetings he recently attended, which dealt with equine welfare.
“We discussed the best way to handle animal abuse cases, as well as the issue of unwanted horses,” Cosper said. “Surprisingly, the numbers of unwanted horses in our state is in the thousands.
“I updated the attendees of the meetings on what the commission has done as far as equine welfare, including drug testing and track-surface safety,” he added.
Commission vice chair Beverly Bourguet of Albuquerque gave a report on the commission's rules committee, of which she is chairperson. She said that the commission will produce a booklet for New Mexico trainers that would include a checklist of the state's rules and regulations for its horsemen. The commission will work with the New Mexico Horsemen's Association on the contents of the booklet.
In his report to the commission, NMHA executive director Jack McGrail commended management at Sunland Park on its Sunland Derby Day on March 24, which produced a state-record single-day mutuel handle of $3,820,986, of which $3,450,282 was wagered off track. On-track attendance that day reached 18,184.
The 1 1/8-mile, $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) is New Mexico's only graded Thoroughbred stakes, and it has become one of the country's major prep races for the Thoroughbred Triple Crown, which starts with the 1 1/4-mile, $2-million Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. This year's Sunland Derby was won by Mike Pegram's Govenor Charlie, a homebred Kentucky-bred colt by Midnight Lute trained by Bob Baffert.
“We appreciate all the work that goes into planning and executing a day like that,” McGrail said.
McGrail added that a walk-through inspection of SunRay Park in Farmington is scheduled for April 3. The track will open its 39-day meet on Friday, April 19, and will present live racing on a Friday-through-Sunday and Tuesday schedule.
McGrail also visited the construction site for The Downs at Albuquerque's new casino, accompanied by Downs general manager Darren White.
“It looks like it is going to be a nice facility, and of course we're on pins and needles waiting for it to get opened and operating,” McGrail said. “Its opening is projected for sometime in June, and if it does open then it should be able to generate enough revenues so we can get back to our purse levels for last year at The Downs.”
McGrail concluded his presentation by saying that he had met with Zia Park director of racing Fred Hutton regarding that track's stakes schedule for its 2013 meet, which opens in September.
“We anticipate we'll be able to get the stakes schedule finalized by the next commission meeting (on April 25),” McGrail added.
The NMHA annual awards banquet will be held at SunRay Park on Saturday, May 25.
Sunland Park director of racing operations Dustin Dix said track management was pleased with its results of Sunland Derby Day.
“We were happy with our results, especially considering that we had one less live race than last year,” he said. “Also, the day happened to fall on Palm Sunday this year, which meant the off-track betting sites and racetracks in New York were closed and couldn't take wagers on our races. But no horses were vanned off the track that day, and we had nice weather.”
Dix added that a horse campaigned by locally based owners, Show Some Magic, ran second in the Sunland Derby. Owned by J. Kirk and Judy Robison of El Paso, Texas, and trained by locally based conditioner Henry Dominguez, the Kentucky-bred colt by Any Given Saturday is being pointed to the 1 1/8-mile, $750,000 Illinois Derby (G3) at Hawthorne Racecourse on April 20, according to Dix.
“Our Sunland Derby was part of the Kentucky Derby point system, and our Sunland Park Oaks was part of the Kentucky Oaks point system, even though our Oaks isn't graded,” Dix said. “The winner of our Oaks, Midnight Lucky, is being pointed to the Kentucky Oaks (on May 3).
“There were four or five horses we thought were going to ship in for our Derby, but for one reason or another they didn't,” he added. “Still, we were pleased with the qualify of the field.”
Dix also said that handle for Sunland Park's all-stakes Pick-4 on Sunland Derby Day reached $187,763, quite a bit more than its $50,000 guarantee. The Pick-4 that day consisted of the $75,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes, the $85,000 New Mexico Breeders' Derby (R) for state-bred 3-year-olds, the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, and the Sunland Derby.
“We allowed for more time between races that day, because we had a large crowd and long lines at the betting windows,” Dix said.
In addition, Dix reported that Sunland Park management was pleased with the amount of national media exposure the Sunland Derby received. Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form was in attendance, and he presented a handicapping seminar before the races that day. USA Today gave the race mainstream print media coverage, as it ran ran a photo of Govenor Charlie in one of its editions.
Dix said that there will be a track safety meeting at Sunland Park on April 11, beginning at 11 a.m. (MDT).
“We want to go over our off-season maintenance program, as well as see if there are any issues from our 2012-13 meet that need to be addressed,” he added.
Also during the meeting, the commission:
*Approved Fred Hutton as director of racing at Zia Park in Hobbs, pending a background check. A former jockey, Hutton served as the track's racing secretary last year.
*Approved Wayne Epsteen, Ruben Rivera, and Linda Salinas as stewards for the SunRay Park meet, which runs April 19-June 23.
*Approved Tom Womack to serve as controller at The Downs at Albuquerque, pending a background check.
*Approved the racing officials for the Ruidoso Downs meet, which opens Friday, May 24. Kelly McReynolds will serve as the track's starter, a post he held at Sunland Park this year.
The next regular monthly commission meeting will be held on Thursday, April 25, 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.