06/22/2017 2:16PM

Downs at Albuquerque opens with stronger purses

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The Downs at Albuquerque will open a 58-date mixed meet Saturday night with an increased purse structure, a boost to its signature race for Thoroughbreds, a Champion of Champions berth attached to its main event for Quarter Horses, and a competitive feature that drew 10 horses who have won a combined 28 stakes races.

The meet will continue through Sept. 3. First post is 6:05 p.m. Mountain on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. on Sundays. The schedule will be altered over the final three weeks of the meet, which comprise the New Mexico State Fair.

Albuquerque Downs officials project purses will average $190,000 a program, up from $170,000 during the 2016 season. The track has boosted the purse for the Downs at Albuquerque Handicap to $200,000 from $175,000 in 2016. The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up will be run Aug. 5 and is part of a $2.5 million stakes program that features 12 races for Thoroughbreds and eight for Quarter Horses.

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The $250,000 Albuquerque Fall Championship highlights the Quarter Horse stakes schedule. The 440-yard race Sept. 24 will reward its winner with a berth in the Grade 1, $750,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos. The Fall Championship will share a card with the $200,000 New Mexico State Fair Thoroughbred Futurity at six furlongs and the La Fiesta Futurity for Quarter Horses, which carries a meet-high purse of $300,000.

The stakes program launches Saturday night with the $70,000 O.D. McDonald. The seven-furlong race is restricted to 3-year-olds and up bred in New Mexico. Citizen Gellar, who won the race a year ago, is back to defend his title against That’s Who, a nine-time stakes winner; D E Lover, a five-time stakes winner; and Stormin the Jewels, whose four stakes victories include the Camino Real Futurity at Albuquerque.

For ontrack patrons, Albuquerque is introducing two new wagering opportunities. The first is an app that enables local horseplayers to bet the live program from their mobile devices. The second is an “odd-even” wager on five races on each program. If a patron bets on the even option in a designated race, the patron cashes if a horse with an even program number wins that race, according to a release from Albuquerque. The same holds true with odd numbers. The bet has a $1 minimum and is designed for newcomers.