Friday, May 25, 2012
The New Mexico Racing Commission held its monthly meeting at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday, May 24.
New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association executive director Anna Fay Davis gave the commission her race-a-day reports for SunRay Park, which opened its 2012 meet on April 20. During the first 12 days of SunRay's 42-day season, the track ran 50 New Mexico-bred races – 37 for Thoroughbreds and 13 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 30 state-bred races during the first eight days of its 2011 meet, 21 for Thoroughbreds and nine for Quarter Horses.
An average of 4.17 New Mexico-bred races per day have been run during the first 12 days of SunRay Park's meet, which represents an 11-percent increase over the average of 3.75 state-bred races per day contested during the first eight days of the track's 2011 season.
Also, during the first four days of the SunRay meet, a total of 56 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which 14 (25 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, seven were Thoroughbreds and seven were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $9,255.20 were paid to the owners of these horses.
SunRay Park's meet runs through June 26.
At Sunland Park, which ended its 77-day season on April 17, a total of 462 New Mexico-breds competed in open races, of which 124 (27 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, 18 were Thoroughbreds and 124 were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $123,101.10 were paid to the owners of these horses.
Commission executive director Vince Mares also reported on the commission's necropsy program, which he said is currently in place. An information packet outlining the details of the program is available at the commission office.
“Before the necropsy program went into effect, the biggest issue was how to handle the transportation of the horses from the racetracks to the lab in Albuquerque, but that's been resolved,” Mares said.
Commission co-chair Beverly Bourguet said that the commission's Rules Committee, which she chairs, did not meet as scheduled on May 23, as the Medication Committee's meeting that day lasted longer than originally scheduled. She added that the Rules Committee meeting does plan to meet as scheduled prior to the next commission meeting on Thursday, June 21.
In his monthly report to the commission, New Mexico Horsemen's Association executive director Jack McGrail said that horsemen had few complaints about the condition of the racing surface at SunRay Park. He also discussed the recent adjustment to Sunray's racing schedule, which decreased the number of races per day from 11 to nine and resulted in cuts to the purses of some of the track's stakes races.
“The purse situation seems to be stabilizing,” McGrail said. “We had to drop some races, which was not the horsemens' first choice, but if we hadn't we would have run out of purse money before the end of the meet.
“Adjusting the stakes purses helped keep the overnight purses at their current levels,” he added. “Given the circumstances, I think we worked out a good agreement.”
The adjustment to SunRay Park's racing schedule was due to the presence of the Northern Edge Casino on the Navajo Reservation, which opened for business in January and has had a negative effect on business at SunRay's casino.
McGrail also said that the NMHA supports the commission's necropsy program.
“Most of our owners and trainers think it's a good idea and are in favor of it,” he added. “They realize that when one of our horses has a death that unexpected and unexplained, it's important to get that horse to the the lab in Albuquerque.”
Also at the commission meeting:
*The commission approved veteran racing official Ed L'Ecuyer as the third steward at the 2012 Ruidoso Downs meet. L'Ecuyer joins Kenneth Hart and David Keiter, who were approved by the commission at its April meeting, on the track's board of stewards.
*Zia Park assistant general manager and director of racing Rick Baugh introduced Dusty Franklin, the track's manager of mutuels and racing operations, to the commission. A native of Ruidoso, Franklin discussed the programs that Zia Park has implemented to promote live and simulcast racing.
“We've given our servers in the Turf Club hand-held wagering devices so customers can place bets from their tables,” she said. “The transition was a little challenging, but we're very happy with the end result.
“We've also trained our bartenders in the Turf Club to take bets, and we added more self-service wagering machines in the Turf Club,” Franklin added.
Franklin also said that Zia Park has added program vending machines, from which customers can purchase the past performances for tracks up to three days in advance. She also has promoted Zia Park's racing and simulcast product, as well as its Black Gold Casino, on local radio talk shows in the Hobbs, Ruidoso, and Midland-Odessa (Texas) markets.
Franklin reported that Zia Park's attendance for its 2011 live race meet increased 10 percent over 2010 figures, and that the track's year-to-date simulcast handle is up 23 percent over the same period in 2011.
Zia Park's 54-day meet opens Saturday, September 8.
*Sunland Park director of racing operations Dustin Dix reported that the supplemental nomination fee for the 2013 Shue Fly Stakes (RG2) has been decreased from $15,000 to $10,000.
“We haven't had that many supplements to the Shue Fly in recent years, and we figured that dropping the fee might encourage more people to supplement their horses to the race,” Dix said.
*Project manager Darren White gave the commission an update on the status of the renovation project at The Downs at Albuquerque. The new casino, he said, will be located near the 7-furlong chute of the racetrack and will be connected to the track grandstand by a walkway through a landscaped park. There also will be a paved roadway to allow shuttle carts to transport customers back and forth from the casino to the grandstand.
White also said that the casino will stand about six feet above Central Avenue so that it will be easy to spot from the street.
“Our landscape engineer will also be redesigning the apron of the grandstand, as well as the park between the new casino and grandstand and the track's winner's circle,” White said. “When people turn off the street into these 44 acres (of Expo New Mexico), we want them to be so impressed that they'll want to come back again and again.
“We believe this will be a positive change, not only for Expo New Mexico but for the entire neighborhood,” he added. “We still have hope that the new casino will be open for business by December, but if not by then, surely by the first quarter of 2013.”
*John Beech, regional manager of the Jockeys' Guild, expressed appreciation to SunRay Park and Ruidoso Downs for increasing the amount of their jockey insurance coverage from $500,000 to $1 million.
The next regular monthly commission meeting will be held on Thursday, June 21, at the commission headquarters at 4900 Alameda NE 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 the commission office at (505) 222-0700.