The historic summer season at Ruidoso Downs begins on Friday with the first of two record days of trials to the Grade 1, $750,000 Ruidoso Futurity with two of the top-10 two-year-olds in the nation, Nucky and Big Lew, competing in the 32 trials.
The record 32 trials with 311 entrants is a huge surge from the 24 trials with 225 entrants last year.
The trials will be split into 16 trials on each day with the horses with the five-fastest times on each day qualifying to race the Ruidoso Futurity on June 7.
There will be a special noon first post time to accommodate the trials.
The summer season is guaranteed to be historic with the Grade 1 All American Futurity’s purse reaching $3 million. That is the largest purse for any two-year-old race in the world and the all-time record purse for a quarter horse race.
The overwhelming majority of the horses in the Ruidoso Futurity trials are also pointing to the Grade 1, $1 million Rainbow Futurity and the All American Futurity. If a horse can win the Ruidoso Futurity, Rainbow Futurity and the All American Futurity then that horse’s connections earn the $4 million All American Triple Crown bonus. That means that if a horse wins all three futurities and takes the bonus, the total earnings will reach $6,375,000.
Two of the horses currently in contention for strong performances in the three Grade 1 futurities are Nucky and Big Lew. Nucky is the fourth-ranked horse in the current AQHARacing/Horseplayernow.com poll while Big Lew holds down the eighth spot in the weekly poll.
Denis and Julie Schoenhofer’s Nucky earned his ranking after a three-quarter-length win in the Grade 2, $198,924 West Texas Futurity back in April at Sunland Park. He raced the 300 yards in :15.05 for his second win from two starts.
In his debut, the Mike Joiner-trained Nucky topped the qualifiers to the West Texas Futurity with a :15.210 time while winning by three quarters of a length.
A gelding by freshman sire Dominyun, Nucky drew into the 10th trial on Friday. Sal Martinez will ride with the ninth post position.
Reliance Ranches LLC’s Big Lew comes to Ruidoso Downs after finishing a close second in the Grade 2, $410,000 Oklahoma Futurity on March 21. Big Lew locked up in a duel with Tee Chic, but came up a head short at the wire. Tee Chic is the sport’s number-two ranked two-year-old.
In the Oklahoma Futurity trials, the Eddie Willis-trained Big Lew raced to the second-fastest time of :15.473 for 300 yards while Tee Chic topped the qualifiers at :15.458.
The Corona Cartel-sired Big Lew will start from the sixth post position in the 11th trial on Saturday. Jimmy Dean Brooks will be aboard.
The two supplements to the Ruidoso Futurity, at a cost of $20,000 each, are $827,000 Remington Park Oklahoma-bred Futurity runner-up Send Me Good Candy and Ruidoso Downs training-race winner Goes Without Saying making his career debut
On Sunday afternoon, the trials for the Grade 1 Ruidoso Derby are expected to be highlighted by champion two-year-old Kiss My Hocks, winner of the 2014 Ruidoso Futurity and second in the Rainbow Futurity.
Racing at Ruidoso Downs runs on a Friday through Monday schedule. There is always free parking and free general admission.
The Ruidoso Press Box on Twitter (@RuiPressBox) will provide each trial time as soon as they are made official.