05/25/2011 4:07PM

Ruidoso Downs: All American purse expected to set a record


Ruidoso Downs has given its grandstand and racing surface a facelift for the 60-date mixed meet that opens on Friday, but the most striking changes for the new season are in the racing program.

The Grade 1 All American Futurity for Quarter Horses will have a record $2.4 million-estimated purse when it is run on closing day, Sept. 5. And this year, the Labor Day program won’t be a rare Monday card, as has been tradition. Ruidoso has restructured its race week and will have live cards every Friday through Monday, the lone exception being a Thursday program on Aug. 18 to accommodate trials for the All American Futurity.

Jean Stoddard, who is in her first meet as acting general manager of Ruidoso after serving as the assistant general manager since 2004, said the move to Mondays was done to increase exposure for the races.

“TVG approached us,” she said of the racing television network, “and they are willing to take our Monday cards and that gets New Mexico racing out there even more. We went to the commission and they were all for it, and we went to our local horsemen’s committee and they were all for it.

“It extends the weekend.”

The All American is the crown jewel of the meet and for the second year in a row it will have its own future wager in July. As for the projected purse of $2.4 million, it will be an all-time high offering for a Quarter Horse race. In addition, the All American’s first-place check of $1.2 million will set a new standard for the breed. Driving the purse increase from last year’s $2  million is a surge of nominations to the All American. There are 629 young horses that remain eligible for the race, a 23 percent increase over the 525 that were eligible in 2010.

Many of those nominees will start their seasons Friday during the 21 trials for the Grade 1, $500,000 Ruidoso Futurity on June 12. Valiant War Hero, an undefeated world-record holder, goes in the seventh race, one of 28 starters on the card for trainer Blane Wood. Valiant War Hero set a 300-yard world record of 14.59 seconds while winning the Grade 1 West Texas Futurity at Sunland Park in April.

Paul Jones, the nation’s perennial leading trainer, has 33 horses in the trials Friday. He also will be active in Saturday’s trials for the Grade  1 Ruidoso Quarter Horse Derby, chief among his starters last year’s champion 2-year-old, American Runaway.

“There’s a lot of buzz going on,” Stoddard said. “Our summer family is back in town.”

Friday’s first race has a special post of 11 a.m. Mountain.