Monday, March 17, 2014
The New Mexico Racing Commission held its monthly meeting at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday, March 13.
New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association executive director Anna Fay Davis gave the commission her race-a-day report for Sunland Park, which opened its 76-day season on December 6. During the first 55 days of the meet, the track ran 266 New Mexico-bred races -- 187 for Thoroughbreds and 79 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, Sunland Park carded 295 state-bred races -- 210 for Thoroughbreds and 85 for Quarter Horses -- during the first 60 days of its 2012-13 season.
An average of 4.84 New Mexico-bred races per day were run during the first 55 days of the Sunland Park meet, a slight decrease of 1.6 percent from the 4.92 state-bred races per day contested during the first 60 days of the track’s 2012-13 season.
Also, during the first 39 days of the Sunland Park meet, a total of 321 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which 85 (27 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, 31 were Thoroughbreds and 54 were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $63,378.70 were paid to the owners of these horses.
By comparison, only 290 state-breds raced in open overnight races during the first 39 days of the 2012-13 Sunland meet, of which 54 (19 percent) finished first, second or third.
Also at the meeting, commissioner Ray Willis of Roswell, chairman of the NMRC medication committee, reported on a recent track safety meeting he attended at Sunland Park, at which on-track equine injuries were discussed.
“A concern was expressed that the number of on-track injuries hasn’t dropped at the same rate they had from 2011 through 2013,” Willis said. “Track management is looking into this.
“Also, we reviewed soil samples, and it was agreed that the horses who ship in for the Sunland Derby and Sunland Park Oaks would be able to exercise over the track without any resident horses being present,” he added.
Representing the Jockeys’ Guild, counsel Mindy Coleman reported on some of the issues discussed during the Guild’s annual assembly, held January 27-28 in Hollywood, Florida.
“The main focus of this year’s assembly was safety,” she said. “We discussed improving the helmets that jockeys wear during their races. The current helmets were designed to prevent traumatic brain injuries, but they don’t do much to prevent concussions. We’re looking at developing a helmet that can also prevent concussions.”
At the assembly, Michelle Penna, business support manager for Jockey Club subsidiary InCompass Solutions, outlined how new baseline testing for concussions as part of the Jockey Health Information System will work.
About 450 riders are already involved in the JHIS and can add baseline testing, a program being funded by the Jockey Club but available to both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse jockeys, to their records. The baseline test, which takes less than 30 minutes, will serve as a tool to help make medical decisions on when a rider can safely return to competition following a future concussion.
“This baseline testing will be launched during the Keeneland meet (which opens April 4),” Coleman said. “We’re hoping this will prevent jockeys from going back to ride too soon after a concussion. The purpose isn’t to keep them from riding. We all realize that, as independent contractors, they don’t make money when they don’t ride. The purpose is to make sure they’re in a safe spot when they do return to riding.”
Also, Coleman said that racetracks, until now, haven’t been as cooperative as the Guild would like when it comes to reporting injuries.
“We haven’t gotten the response that we’d been hoping for,” she added. “We can understand why tracks wouldn’t want to share that information, but the reason we’re asking for this cooperation is so that we can come up with ways to prevent injuries. This would help tracks as well as jockeys.”
Also at the meeting:
*The commission voted to approve the following stewards -- Bob Allison, Linda Salinas, and Ruben Rivera -- for the 39-day SunRay Park meet, which runs April 18-June 22.
*The commission approved the addition of a Pick-4 wager during the 12-race Sunland Derby Day program at Sunland Park on March 23. Also, director of racing operations Dustin Dix reported that entries for the Sunland Derby Day card will be drawn later than usual, on the Wednesday before March 23.
“We usually draw our Sunday cards on the previous Sunday, but we plan to make a media event out of the Sunland Derby draw,” Dix said. “Also, people who ship in from out of state aren’t accustomed to drawing a race card that far in advance. We’ll also draw the card for Tuesday, March 25, the next day, then we’ll go back to our regular draw schedule the following week.”
Dix also said that Sunland Park management is working on an agreement with TVG, in which the racing channel would produce a one-hour special on the Sunland Derby and Sunland Park Oaks. A Grade 3, $800,000 race run at 1 1/8 miles, the Sunland Derby has become the southwest region’s major prep for the Kentucky Derby (G1), the first leg of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.
*The commission approved Ruidoso Downs’ request to change the track’s entry date from five to seven days before a race card. “We’ll keep an eye on scratches, and if it becomes a problem we’ll look into it,” said track general manager Shaun Hubbard.
The commission also approved Mike Mitchell as the replacement for Pete Phipps as head outrider at Ruidoso Downs. A former jockey and longtime horseman, Phipps is battling cancer.
Hubbard also invited the commission to attend a reception honoring the cast and crew of the movie “50-to-1,” which chronicles the journey of Mine That Bird, the New Mexico-based gelding who won the 2009 Kentucky Derby. The reception will be held at Ruidoso Downs on March 18, beginning at 3 p.m., one day before the movie makes its premiere at the Kimo Theater in downtown Albuquerque.
*The commission approved SunRay Park’s condition book and stakes schedule, as well as its $1-million jockey and exercise rider accident insurance policy.
A walk-through is scheduled for April 8 at SunRay Park, one day after the track’s barn area is scheduled to open.
Also, SunRay director of racing Lonnie Barber reported that his track will run all-Thoroughbred programs -- with the exception of one New Mexico-bred Quarter Horse race, as required by statute -- on Tuesdays. On Fridays, SunRay Park will conduct all-Quarter Horse cards, with the exception of one New Mexico-bred Thoroughbred race, as required by statute.
Barber said that this change was made at the request of Steve Fedunak, SunRay Park’s new simulcast and mutuels manager.
“He assured us that we can get a lot more out-of-state simulcast outlets to take our Tuesday signal if we make this change,” Barber said. “A lot of states, particularly on the east coast, are not allowed to import Quarter Horse signals.
“By making this change, we’re confident that handle on our live races will increase,” he added. “We need to try something different, because our gaming revenue just isn’t what it had been. The drop seems to have leveled off, and hopefully we’re at a point where we can start building it back up.”
The next regular monthly commission meeting will be held on Thursday, April 10, 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 http://nmrc.state.nm.us, or call (505) 222-0700.