05/23/2012 4:04PM

Ruidoso Downs opener has no shortage of action


The optimism that Shaun Hubbard, the new general manager of Ruidoso Downs, has for the New Mexico meet that opens Friday is backed up at the entry box. The track, which is home to the $2.4 million All American Futurity for Quarter Horses, will open its season with 25 trial races for the Grade 1, $600,000 Ruidoso Futurity. And on Saturday, champion Ochoa, who won last year’s All American, will launch his 3-year-old season in trials for the Grade 1, $697,207 Ruidoso Derby.

In all, Ruidoso will race 61 dates through Labor Day, Sept. 3. The track has long showcased some of the best Quarter Horses in training, and also offers races for Thoroughbreds.

“I grew up coming to Ruidoso,” said Hubbard, the 29-year-old grandson of track owner R.D. Hubbard. “It’s what I live for. People that are here, they’ve all got one thing in common, a passion for summers at Ruidoso. The futurities and derbies. It’s just an exciting time of year. There’s nothing like it.”

Hubbard said stall applications were up 30 percent this meet, while entrants for the Ruidoso Futurity, which last year was worth $500,000, surged 25 percent. There are 248 horses entered for Friday, compared with 201 a year ago, when the track ran 21 trials on opening day. First post Friday will be a special 10 a.m. Mountain. Among those set to start include Ms Katyln Dreams, who is out of the Thoroughbred racemare Hallowed Dreams, winner of her first 16 starts. In addition, the undefeated stakes winner PJ Chick In Black is one of four horses who were supplemented to the trials for $15,000.

Saturday’s card will start at the traditional 1 p.m., with Ochoa to run in the first race. It will be his first start since he powered to a clear win in last year’s All American, a race that will have a record purse this year because of strong nominations. Others to make appearances in the six Ruidoso Derby trials include champion Feature Mr Bojangles, who goes in the fourth race Saturday.

The All American Futurity is the highlight of the 43-race stakes schedule at Ruidoso. The 440-yard classic for 2-year-olds is run on the closing-day card Sept. 3. Trials for the race are Aug. 16. The purse for next year’s All American, in 2013, is already projected to be $2.75 million, said Hubbard. The race’s sister for 3-year-olds, the All American Derby on Sept. 2, is expected to have a purse of $2.3 million this meet at Ruidoso.

“The Quarter Horse industry is so strong right now,” said Hubbard.

Ruidoso is also home to the Rainbow series for Quarter Horses, which features the $700,000 Rainbow Futurity and $1 million Rainbow Derby on July 21. The Ruidoso Futurity, the first of the track’s major races for 2-year-olds, is on June 9. It will share a card with the Ruidoso Derby.

Hubbard said the All American Future Wager, which was introduced two seasons ago, will not be renewed for 2012. He said the bet did give exposure to the race, but the track has decided to spend its advertising budget in different directions this season. Hubbard said in a new move for the meet, patrons will notice new box seats upon their return Friday.

“They’re right out there on the apron,” he said. “We did a trial run last year and it went over really big.”

Hubbard is hoping the same for Ruidoso 2012.