Friday, November 16, 2012
The New Mexico Racing Commission held its monthly meeting at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday, November 15.
New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association executive director Anna Fay Davis gave the commission her final race-a-day report for The Downs at Albuquerque, whose meet ended November 4. During the 54-day Albuquerque meet, the track ran 218 New Mexico-bred races – 134 for Thoroughbreds and 84 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 207 state-bred races during its 54-day season in 2011, 110 for Thoroughbreds and 97 for Quarter Horses.
An average of 4.04 New Mexico-bred races per day were run during the 2012 Downs at Albuquerque meet, which represents an increase of 5 percent from the average of 3.84 state-bred races per day contested in 2011.
Also, during the first 34 days of the Albuquerque meet, a total of 365 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which 98 (27 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, 44 were Thoroughbreds and 54 were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $39,463.30 were paid to the owners of these horses.
Meanwhile, Zia Park in Hobbs has run 202 New Mexico-bred races during the first 36 days of its meet, 135 for Thoroughbreds and 67 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 203 state-bred races – 142 for Thoroughbreds and 61 for Quarter Horses – during the first 36 days of its 2011 season.
An average of 5.62 New Mexico-bred races per day have been contested during the first 36 days of the Zia Park meet, a slight decrease from the a 5.64 average during the first 36 days of the track's 2011 season.
The 56-day Zia Park meet opened September 8 and runs through December 4.
Davis also told the commission that, due to a decrease in casino revenues at Sunland Park Racetrack, the purses of 19 New Mexico-bred stakes will be decreased by $15,000 to $85,000-guaranteed. These races include the 400-yard Jess Burner Memorial Handicap (RG1) for Quarter Horses, and the 6 1/2-furlong Johnie L. Jamison Stakes (R) and 6-furlong New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap (R) for Thoroughbreds on opening weekend, December 8-9.
“Our purse account is down more than $1 million from the same time last year,” said Sunland Park director of racing Dustin Dix. “A lot of longtime businesses in El Paso are closing down, including several restaurants.”
In his monthly report to the commission, New Mexico Horsemen's Association executive director Jack McGrail discussed conditions at Zia Park and The Downs at Albuquerque.
“Overall, horsemen are pleased with the condition of the racing surface at Zia Park, but the optimism is cautious optimism,” McGrail said. “The weather has been changing, and hopefully the track crew will be able to adjust to the freezing temperatures that are coming. It's important that they understand the track is going to change as the weather changes.
“I think it's important that next year, we get an early start on the track surface so that it's race-ready on opening day,” he added. “But overall, the word I get from the horsemen is that they're pleased with the condition of the track.”
McGrail also reported that the recently concluded Downs at Albuquerque meet had the best horse safety record in the state, if not one of the best in the country. However, he expressed concern that purses at the track were “overpaid substantially, and it will probably take until January to pay off the overpayment, meaning we won't be able to build purses for next year until mid-January.
“The Downs has had a decline in gaming revenue, and everything at the track depends on the new casino and how soon that will open for business,” McGrail said. “Considering that next year's meet will have three more days than this year's meet, it's imperative that get open soon.”
McGrail also reported that the issue of year-round stabling at The Downs at Albuquerque still hasn't been resolved, but that he has been in talks with track general manager Don Cook and Don Mourning, the general manager of Expo New Mexico, which owns the facility, regarding the issue.
“Currently, there are about 150 horses stabled at the track,” McGrail said. “This is an issue that is important to northern New Mexico horsemen, and horsemen throughout the state. This is where horses get ready for the SunRay Park meet in Farmington.”
Also, McGrail asked the commission to do what it could to speed up the purse payment process, which he said can take up to three weeks in New Mexico.
“Owners and jockeys are not getting paid in a timely manner,” McGrail said. “At Remington Park, it takes 7-10 days for owners to get their purse money, and that's what our aim should be. I've checked many other jurisdictions, and no other horsemen wait as long as ours do to get their purse money.”
In response, commission chairman Robert Doughty III said that he expects this delay to improve now that the change of the commission's testing laboratory from Iowa State University to the University of California at Davis has been completed.
Also at the commission meeting:
*The commission set meeting dates for the first six months of 2013. The dates will be Wednesday, January 16 in Albuquerque; Thursday, February 21 in Albuquerque; Thursday, March 28 in Albuquerque; Thursday, April 25 in Albuquerque; Thursday, May 16 in Albuquerque; and Thursday, June 20 in Farmington.
*The commission approved the board of stewards for the Sunland Park meet, which opens December 7. The stewards will be Ed L'Ecuyer, Kenneth Hart, and David Keiter. The commission also approved Schwalm, Martos and Co. to be the track's auditors.
*Horse breeder and owner Tom McKeller encouraged the commission to adopt a ban of drugs in racehorses 72 hours before they race. “This would result in fewer breakdowns, better publicity for our industry, and more confidence from the betting public in our racing product,” he said.
*The New Mexico Horsemen's Association and SunRay Park management agreed to decrease the purse of the track's signature race for open Thoroughbreds, the San Juan County Commissioners Handicap, from $90,000-guaranteed to $75,000-guaranteed in 2013.
*The commission approved Jill Cathey to be placing judge at Sunland Park. Cathey replaces Walton Wiggins Jr., and she will also work in the racing office.
*The commission approved Zia Park's request to change the track's time between races from 28 minutes to 26 minutes. Zia Park assistant general manager Rick Baugh also reported that the track's overall handle is up 4 percent from last year.
*The commission approved several rule changes. For more information, visit the commission's website at www.nmrc.state.nm.us, or call the commission at (505) 222-0700.
The next regular monthly commission meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 16, 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.