- There is a limited number of live racing tracks still running in the US.
- There has been no live racing in New Mexico since March 15.
- Ruidoso Downs is still hoping to start their meet on May 22 as scheduled.
Tough times for horse betting enthusiasts in the United States and New Mexico is no exception. There’s been no live racing in the ‘Land of Enchantment’ since March 15. Now it looks as if there won’t be any New Mexico tracks opening back up until May 22 at the earliest and even that date is very tenuous due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The latest announcement came from Ruidoso Downs Race Track who announced on Thursday that they won’t open their stable area to horsemen until May 1 at the earliest. A press release from the track cited the extension of ‘stay at home’ orders issued by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham until the end of April. These orders include the closure of all ‘non essential’ businesses. Track General Manaager Jeff True gave these instructions to horsemen and also indicated that they remain hopeful of starting their 2020 meet as scheduled on May 22:
“The May 1st restart date requires that horsemen will need to find alternative locations for qualifying works in April. Our goal continues to be to prepare for racing at Ruidoso Downs as scheduled on May 22nd. However, if viral conditions warrant a further delay, we will announce as soon as it is known and will make any race date changes that are warranted for the health, safety, and welfare of all concerned; including the horses. As we have said all along, the health and safety of our community and our racing industry has to be the top priority.”
Of course that bit about ‘if viral conditions warrant a further delay’ is a big caveat and suggests that Ruidoso Downs’ hopes to start on schedule are tenuous as best even assuming that all racing for the foreseeable future will be done without a live crowd on hand.
SUNLAND, SUNRAY PARKS ALSO GO DARK DUE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Sunland Park was the last New Mexico track to hold a live race card on March 15. The track and neighboring casino were closed on March 16 at the request of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham who negotiated with the Sunland management, the New Mexico Racing Commission, and the state’s Gaming Control Board to make it happen. At the time, the closure was announced for three weeks but the new extension means that the property will remain dark until May 1 at the earliest. The Sunland meet was scheduled to end on April 21 and the closure has forced the cancellation of the track’s two biggest annual races, the Sunland Derby and Sunland Park Oaks.
Horseman at Sunland weren’t happy about the closure. Veteran trainer Fred Danley articulates a view held by many of his peers:
“It’s tough times. I think we could have finished the meet at Sunland Park with no fans. I don’t think it was the right thing to make us stop running for purse money. People are being laid off and owners are taking their horses back to their place until things get better. Horses won’t be ready to run when things get back to normal.”
The Sunray Park race meet was scheduled to begin on April 24 but their casino was shut down on March 16 at which time the track announced that the 2020 meet would be ‘postponed’. The further indicated that there would be no live racing until the end of April and that ‘they will not be able to speculate further’ until the stay at home order is lifted. Elsewhere on the website the track indicates that the status of the 2020 season is ‘undetermined’ which strongly suggests that it could be cancelled altogether.