09/06/2012 1:09PM

Zia Park: New 'code of conduct' in place for 54-day meet


Less than a week after a fellow New Mexico track announced plans to rule off any trainer who has a horse test positive for a major drug, Zia Park in Hobbs will open its meet on Saturday with a new “code of conduct” in place. Penn National Gaming, which owns Zia, has issued the policy as part of a horsemen’s guide being used at all of its 11 racing facilities in North America.

This past Monday, Ruidoso Downs put a plan in motion to revoke stalls and refuse entries from any trainer who has a horse test positive for a Class 1 or Class 2 drug during its 2013 meet. Zia’s code of conduct is more general that of Ruidoso but addresses how the actions of racing participants reflect on the sport and how improper behavior will be dealt with.

“The guide was developed in early 2011 to raise awareness among all participants within our various racing programs, with a focus on accountability, integrity, and safety,” said Christopher McErlean, vice president of racing for Penn National Gaming. “Each property also has the ability to create a customized local rules section to fit their own needs, but the main body of the guide provides a clear roadmap for horsemen and racing individuals on meeting our expectations.”

Both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses will compete at Zia during its 54-day meet, which runs through Dec. 4. The track, an 8-year-old facility which operates a slots casino, will distribute $3 million in stakes purses during the season. The richest card will be held Oct. 28, when Zia puts on its annual $2 million New Mexico Cup program of 11 divisional stakes for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses bred in the state. It features seven races for Thoroughbreds, and is one of the richest statebred programs in North America.

Zia will run 31 stakes this meet, with 17 of them for Thoroughbreds, including the $100,000 Premiere Cup Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs on Sunday; the $150,000 Zia Park Derby at a mile and a sixteenth Dec. 1; and the $200,000 Zia Park Distance Championship for 3-year-olds and up at a mile and an eighth Dec. 2.

The racing program will be overseen by Fred Hutton, who has been named the track’s new director of racing. Other new faces at the meet include Jonathan Horowitz, who has been named track announcer. He comes in from Arapahoe Park in Aurora, Colo. Horowitz, 27, called his first race at Los Alamitos at the age of 14.

Chuchuluco, winner of last season’s $180,000 New Mexico Cup Sprint, makes his first start of the year in the featured 11th race Saturday. The optional $40,000 claiming race for New Mexico-breds will be run over six furlongs for a purse of $42,400.