Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The New Mexico Racing Commission held its monthly meeting at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday, May 16.
New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association executive director Anna Fay Davis gave the commission her race-a-day report for the first 12 days of the SunRay Park meet in Farmington, which began its 39-day season on April 19. During the first 12 days, the track ran 39 New Mexico-bred races – 25 for Thoroughbreds and 14 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 50 state-bred races during the first 12 days of its 2012 meet, 37 for Thoroughbreds and 13 for Quarter Horses.
An average of 3.25 New Mexico-bred races per day were run during the first 12 days of the current SunRay meet, a decrease of 22 percent from the 4.17 state-bred races per day contested during the first 12 days of the track's 2012 season.
Also, during the first four days of the SunRay Park meet, a total of 65 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which 15 (23 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, eight were Thoroughbreds and seven were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $6,791.60 were paid to the owners of these horses.
The SunRay Park meet runs through June 23.
Davis also reported that, during the 76-day Sunland Park meet, which ran from December 7-April 16, a total of 598 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which 124 (21 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, 45 were Thoroughbreds and 79 were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $94,344.90 were paid to the owners of these horses.
Commissioner Gayla McCulloch of Farmington chaired a 2014 race dates committee meeting on May 15.
“We made progress on the 2014 race dates calendar, but we didn't settle anything,” she said. “There are three tracks that don't have their race dates settled, but we are going to meet again before the June commission meeting in Farmington, and hopefully we'll have things resolved by then.”
Also, commissioner Ray Willis of Roswell attended a track safety meeting and walk-through at Ruidoso Downs, which opens its 60-day season on Friday, May 24. Willis said that the stable area appeared to be in good shape, and he said he was promised that any issues that needed to be resolved by track management would be handled by opening day.
“There were 38 training races for 2-year-olds held at Ruidoso Downs on May 6-8, and they didn't need to help one horse off of the track after their race,” Willis added. “The horsemen are happy with the condition of the track. Everyone is ready for the meet to start.”
Commission chairman Rob Doughty of Albuquerque announced that Jack McGrail, the executive director of the New Mexico Horsemen's Association for the past several years, has resigned his post to become executive director of the Oregon Racing Commission, effective June 1.
In his final report to the commission, McGrail said that average purses at SunRay Park were at $85,000 per day, but that there was a chance they could increase to about $90,000 a day.
“There's no concern about the track surface at this time,” he added. “The only concern we have is that the barn area doesn't have a full supply of horses. There are a lot of empty stalls, and we feel that's directly related to the shortness of the (39-day) meet. For example, (2012 leading trainer) Justin Evans didn't return with a full stable, opting to race at Lone Star Park during this period, and he indicated to me that it didn't make sense to him to set up a stable at SunRay for such a short meet.
“I don't know if those empty stalls had been assigned and the horsemen didn't show up – I can't comment on that,” McGrail said. “But I think it would be a good idea for the commission to look into that because there are horsemen who want stalls at SunRay. If they got them, I think it would help the track increase its average field size.”
McGrail also said that, though he didn't attend the safety meeting and walk-through at Ruidoso Downs, he heard that most everything was in good shape, and what wasn't would be taken care of by opening day.
Also during the meeting, Zia Park officials announced that Tony Martinez Sr. has been hired as a racing surface consultant and Tony Martinez Jr. has been hired as the track superintendent.
“We're very pleased about this,” McGrail said. “Tony Sr. is formulating a plan for track maintenance, and he will reveal it during the June commission meeting. Both Tony Sr. and Tony Jr. are aware of the unique qualities of New Mexico's climate and soil conditions.”
Also at the meeting:
*The commission approved the appointment of Courtney Markwell as nominations secretary at Zia Park. Markwell replaces Dusti Caviness, who will remain at the track in other capacities. The commission also approved Zia Park's horsemen's guide, condition book, and racing officials for the track's 56-day meet, which begins September 7.
*The commission approved nomination forms for three early Sunland Park Quarter Horse stakes – the Sunland Park Winter Futurity for 2-year-olds, Sunland Park Winter Derby for 3-year-olds, and Shue Fly Stakes (RG2) for New Mexico-bred foals of 2011.
“We wanted to get these nomination blanks approved early so we could start advertising these races to horsemen in the trade magazines,” said Sunland Park director of racing Dustin Dix.
*The commission approved Ruidoso Downs' $1-million insurance policy for the track's jockeys and exercise riders.
*Don Cook, general manager of racing operations at The Downs at Albuquerque, reported that the track will proceed with its plan to re-roof its grandstand. The work will be done by Kenneco Roofing of Albuquerque at a cost of about $88,000.
Cook also said that the projected opening date for the track's new casino is sometime in late June.
The next regular monthly commission meeting will be held on Thursday, June 20, in Farmington. 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.