07/30/2008 11:00PM

Quarter Horse racing set to resume at Ruidoso


RUIDOSO, N.M. - After flooding damaged the racing surface last weekend, Ruidoso Downs will race Saturday afternoon with a 10-race all Quarter Horse card, featuring the Grade 3, $40,000 Mr Jet Moore Handicap.

The storm forced the Sunday, Thursday, and Friday programs to be canceled. The Sunday card was the Zia Festival program, with 10 Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse stakes for New Mexico-breds and purses exceeding $1 million. Three of those Quarter Horse stakes will run Sunday.

The Thoroughbred Peppers Pride's attempt at a record 17th straight win in the Lincoln Handicap was among the races washed out Sunday.

The flood damage was primarily to the racing surface, jockeys' quarters, and the tote board.

The remnants of Hurricane Dolly dumped more than seven inches of rain on the mountainous Ruidoso area and a flash flood rushed down the Rio Ruidoso, which runs under the track near the six-furlong chute and exits the track on the far turn before channeling through the barn area. The water flowed over the track on the first turn near the six-furlong chute and flooded the infield around the tote board and jockey's room, causing damage inside the jockeys' room and to the tote board. Temporary jockeys' quarters may be used this weekend and the tote board information will be shown on in-house monitors.

There is a separate Quarter Horse track at Ruidoso Downs, which is on the grandstand side of the Thoroughbred oval. The two tracks merge on the first turn to allow Quarter Horses to run out after a race. There was flooding on the Thoroughbred track on the front stretch, but no flooding on the Quarter Horse straightaway.

There was minimal damage on the backside, with only 20 horses moving to stalls on higher ground as a precautionary measure at the storm's peak Sunday. All of the 1,400 racehorses remained dry in their stalls.

In the Ruidoso area, one person died as a result of the storm, there were an estimated 500 structures destroyed or damaged, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson declared Lincoln County a disaster area. Preliminary damage reports are at $20 million and expected to rise substantially.

Ruidoso Downs track surface consultant Dennis Moore arrived Sunday night and work began on the track Monday morning, headed by Moore and track superintendent Terry Brown. There was no rain in the Ruidoso area after the storm, allowing the track crew to work around the clock on the track.

"The track crew has been phenomenal," Ruidoso Downs president and general manager Ann McGovern said. "A lot of hard work and dedication has allowed us to race this weekend."

Saturday's card has nine 10-horse fields and nine horses racing in the Mr Jet Moore Handicap. The 400-yard stakes is a rematch between Dr Proctor and Heavenly Trip, the one-two finishers in the Higheasterjet Handicap.

On Sunday, the three Quarter Horse stakes scheduled as part of the canceled Zia Festival - the Grade 1, $345,260 Zia Futurity, the Grade 2, $132,000 Zia Derby, and the $55,000 Zia Quarter Horse Championship - will be joined by the Grade 3 Ford New Mexico Juvenile Challenge. There will be five Thoroughbred races on the 10-race card.

The Zia Futurity has fastest-qualifier Tall Order meeting Victoria Hotpants, who has been second in two futurities.

The Zia Derby has last year's Zia Futurity third-place finisher Uncovered Regard meeting Ruidoso Quarter Horse Sale Futurity runner-up Gold Zime.

The Zia Quarter Horse Championship brings out champion Gotta Get, Grade 1 All American Derby winner Arealstraitheart, and Grade 1 All American Futurity runner-up Gun Battle, the three most celebrated New Mexico-bred Quarter Horses of the past two years.