New strict Ruidoso Downs’ rules, including a requirement that every horse who entered the trials had to be on the grounds 10 days prior to the trials and all qualifiers must remain on the grounds through the finals, are in effect for horses who qualified for the Grade 1, $815,000 Ruidoso Derby and the Grade 1, $750,000 Ruidoso Futurity.
The 400-yard Ruidoso Derby will be held on June 6 and the 350-yard Ruidoso Futurity will be contested on June 7. Futurity trials were run last Friday and Saturday while the derby trials were held Sunday.
The new strict house rules and procedures put into place at Ruidoso Downs are “doing just what they were intended to do,” according to track general manager Shaun Hubbard.
“We put these new rules into place to prevent a small number of people who cheat from hijacking this great sport of horse racing,” Hubbard said. “So far, so good.”
“There were a record 402 horses entered in the Ruidoso Futurity and Ruidoso Derby trials, and we know where everyone of them is stalled,” Hubbard said. “I could walk you up to the stall of any one of them at any time of the day or night. We are constantly checking in on them to ensure the rules are being followed.”
Horsemen have responded to the new rules by entering more horses than ever for the Ruidoso Futurity trials. There were 32 trials to the Ruidoso Futurity, a 33 percent increase over last year’s 24 trials. Owners from 16 states — as far away as Florida and Hawaii — were represented in the two days of trials.
Horsemen have also shown their support with a record number of nominees for next year’s Triple Crown races at Ruidoso Downs. The Triple Crown races are the Ruidoso Futurity, Ruidoso Derby, Rainbow Futurity, Rainbow Derby, All American Futurity and All American Derby.
Fans have also responded to the new rules. They wagered with confidence as handle figures per race were up 33 percent on Friday, 35 percent on Saturday and 27 percent on Sunday. Overall handle was up more than 50 percent for the three days.
“Horsemen and fans wouldn’t react the way unless they recognize the strong efforts we are all making to ensure that racing at Ruidoso Downs is clean and honest,” Hubbard said.
Now that the trials are over, the next steps kick in.
“Every horse who qualified for the Ruidoso Derby and Ruidoso Futurity are now under 24-hour surveillance from now through the running of the finals,” Hubbard said.
“There are now nearly 100 cameras in the barn area tracking each individual horse. There are multiple cameras throughout the entire barn area and the rest of the racetrack property.
“I’m not aware of any other track in quarter horse racing with such a significant presence in the barn area.”
Each horse that qualified for the finals of the Ruidoso Futurity and Ruidoso Derby, as well as the qualifiers for the $50,000 Ruidoso Juvenile and the $100,000 Mr Jess Perry, were drug tested with enhanced super testing. These horses will also be subject to spot testing until the finals.
A total of 125 horses were tested by the New Mexico Racing Commission during Ruidoso Downs’ opening weekend.
“It’s very gratifying to see how the fans and horsemen have responded positively to all of these steps,” Hubbard said. “The overwhelming majority of horsemen are working with us to ensure that racing is conducted with integrity and honesty.
“We will continue to refine these rules and procedures and add to them, if necessary, so that Ruidoso Downs is the best place to race quarter horses.”