Thursday, September 13, 2012
The New Mexico Racing Commission held its monthly meeting at its headquarters in Albuquerque on Thursday, September 13.
New Mexico Horse Breeders’ Association executive director Anna Fay Davis gave the commission her final race-a-day report for Ruidoso Downs, whose meet ended September 3. During the 61-day Ruidoso meet, the track ran 233 New Mexico-bred races – 157 for Thoroughbreds and 76 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 235 state-bred races during its 60-day season in 2011, 154 for Thoroughbreds and 81 for Quarter Horses.
An average of 3.82 New Mexico-bred races per day were run during the 2012 Ruidoso Downs meet, which represents a decrease of 2.5 percent from the average of 3.92 state-bred races per day contested in 2011.
Also, during the first 48 days of the Ruidoso meet, a total of 453 New Mexico-breds competed in open overnight races, of which 133 (30 percent) finished first, second, or third. Of this total, 76 were Thoroughbreds and 57 were Quarter Horses. Bonuses totaling $53,612.50 were paid to the owners of these horses.
Meanwhile, The Downs at Albuquerque has run 71 New Mexico-bred races during the first 16 days of its meet, 40 for Thoroughbreds and 31 for Quarter Horses. By comparison, the track carded 82 state-bred races – 42 for Thoroughbreds and 40 for Quarter Horses – during the first 21 days of its 2011 season.
An average of 4.44 New Mexico-bred races per day have been contested during the first 16 days of the Albuquerque meet, which represents a 28-percent increase over the average of 3.91 state-bred races per day run during the first 21 days of the track's 2011 season.
The 54-day Downs at Albuquerque meet opened August 10 and runs through November 4.
Davis also congratulated the connections of Gonna Cha Cha, a New Mexico-bred gelding by Gonna Ro Sham Bo who won the 440-yard, $84,000 All American Juvenile Stakes at Ruidoso Downs on September 3. She also reported that there would be a Youth Day at The Downs at Albuquerque on Saturday, October 6, as well as a breast cancer awareness day at the track on October 13.
In his monthly report to the commission, New Mexico Horsemen's Association executive director Jack McGrail discussed conditions at Zia Park Racetrack, which began its 54-day meet last Saturday.
“We appreciate the efforts of Zia Park management and trackman Tony Martinez and his crew, but we were a little disappointed at the number of breakdowns on the track during opening weekend,” McGrail said. “Zia Park began working on its track 18 days before its meet started, and Tony indicated to us that he needed more time to prepare the track.
“I think the commission needs to consider guidelines on how far in advance of the start of a meet tracks should start working on their racing surfaces,” he added. “Sunland Park begins work on its track 90 days before it opens its meet; I'm not saying the guideline should be 90 days, but I think the commission should consider a policy where the tracks have to begin working on their surfaces by a certain time before the start of the meet.
Regarding The Downs at Albuquerque, McGrail said he is pleased with the condition of the racing surface. However, he again expressed concern about delays in the construction of the track's casino, which officials are now saying should be open by the second quarter of 2013.
Also, a steep decline in handle and revenue from the current casino at The Downs at Albuquerque has forced track management to cut six stakes from its stakes schedule.
The five Thoroughbred races that have been eliminated from Albuquerque's stakes schedule are the $25,000 Fair Queen Stakes (scheduled for September 15), the $40,000 New Mexico State Fair Handicap (September 23), the $25,000 Budweiser Special Stakes (October 14), the $25,000 Charles Taylor Derby (October 21), and the $25,000 Chamisa Handicap (October 28).
The 400-yard, $25,000 La Mariposa Handicap, which was scheduled for September 16, has been eliminated from the Quarter Horse stakes schedule.
Don Cook, general manager of racing for The Downs at Albuquerque, said that the track's handle is down 25 percent and has been trending downward since early July. Revenue from simulcasting of imported races has also declined. However, Cook reported that track attendance is up over last year, as is food and beverage revenue.
“But the handle drop is the worst I've seen since I've been at The Downs,” Cook added. “We presented several proposals to the horsemen regarding cuts, one of which was to cut purses 10 percent across the board. Cutting the open stakes completely was the proposal that was approved by the horsemen.”
Also at the commission meeting:
*The commission approved Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino's 2012-13 capital improvement project, as well as the appointment of Robert Junk as racing secretary and Dr. Frank Anderson as the inspection veterinarian. A resident of Grants, New Mexico, Anderson replaces Dr. Jess Unruh in that position. Junk has served as the racing secretary at Ruidoso Downs.
*Assistant general manager Rick Baugh reported that, during the first four days of Zia Park's meet, handle on the track's live races is up 27 percent, including 18 percent in wagers from out of state.
The next regular monthly commission meeting will be held on Thursday, October 18, at Zia Park Racetrack in Hobbs. 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.