Regulators focus on future of New Mexico horse racing - Albuquerque Journal

Regulators focus on future of New Mexico horse racing

Horses leave the starting gate at Ruidoso Downs Racetrack and Casino in Ruidoso in 2010. New Mexico has seen its multimillion-dollar industry contract over recent years like other states. (Rudy Gutierrez/The El Paso Times)

New Mexico horse racing regulators, track executives, breeders and others say there’s no silver bullet to ensure the future of the industry as it faces increased competition from online wagering, higher costs, infighting and other problems.

Like other states, New Mexico has seen its multimillion-dollar industry contract over recent years. In hopes of stemming the decline, the New Mexico Racing Commission hosted a special meeting Thursday in Albuquerque to discuss the industry’s strengths, weaknesses and possible solutions.

The long list included everything from a marketing campaign to educate fans, incentives for breeding and racing horses in the state, stronger penalties for doping violations and tighter enforcement of testing procedures as ways to improve perceptions about the sport’s integrity.

While the industry’s stakeholders are often on different sides, many agreed during the hourslong meeting that multiple factors have combined to stifle the industry nationwide and that there’s no simple solution.

Commissioner David “Hossie” Sanchez, the owner of a horse breeding and racing operation near Albuquerque, told those in the packed room and watching online that everyone needed to take off their blinders and consider all the issues, not just those facing them as individual players in the industry.

“That’s the only way this thing is going to work. We have to see other people’s problems and see where they’re coming from,” he said.

The commission, whose members are appointed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, has been mired in litigation in recent years over disagreements about the distribution of purse money and other concerns. Some of the claims filed by the New Mexico Horsemen’s Association are still pending in court.

Gary Mitchell, an attorney representing the horse owners group, expressed disappointment with Thursday’s meeting. He said it appeared the commission had only the track owners’ interests in mind and that tracks and breeders were looking to get a larger share of the gaming purse money.

Mitchell said the commission’s decisions ultimately end up affecting thousands of horse owners, many from rural areas of the state, who are the backbone of the industry. Many of them, he said, run their horses in lower-level races and are looking to make enough money to pay for feed and cover training costs.

“And these are not wealthy New Mexicans. These are classic New Mexicans – born and raised in New Mexico, native to New Mexico, who have deep roots in agriculture and in the cultures they were raised in,” he said. “How about our culture? How about us?”

Some horse owners also have advocated for more transparency in the form of weekly purse money and gaming reports to be posted online by the state’s licensed tracks and their associated casinos.

The commission read a statement at the start of the meeting in which it acknowledged the passion that each group brings to the industry and its economic impact.

“Despite that everyone here has different perspectives and responsibilities, we all share the common and important goal of cultivating the state’s horse racing industry for the benefit of the public who enjoys it and the persons and families who work in it for their livelihoods,” the commission stated.

Track owners and horse breeders told state lawmakers last fall that the industry has seen its economic effects – like spending on feed, fuel and labor – dwindle by nearly 25% over recent years. They have said the decline of the industry has been more precipitous in New Mexico than elsewhere, with the number of races and the number of horses being bred also dropping.

It’s likely the tracks and other advocates will lobby for easing some rules around online betting during the upcoming legislative session, but lawmakers will have to tread carefully to ensure nothing compromises the revenue sharing agreements New Mexico has with Native American tribes that operate casinos.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Regulators focus on future of New Mexico horse racing

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Mourners outside Juárez facility reject claim blaze was started ...
ABQnews Seeker
People who had migrated to Juárez ... People who had migrated to Juárez and who had been in the shelter said it was impossible for migrants to start the fire because ...
Application for camp site for Albuquerque homeless withdrawn; supporters ...
ABQnews Seeker
The organization that sought to house ... The organization that sought to house homeless victims of sex trafficking in tents near the Big I has withdrawn its safe outdoor space application.
Video shows guards walking away during fire that killed ...
ABQnews Seeker
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) -- After ... CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) -- After migrants in northern Mexico placed mattresses against the bars of their detention cell and set them on fire, ...
New Mexico court weighs fight over coal-fired power plant
ABQnews Seeker
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- New Mexico's ... ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- New Mexico's largest electric provider wants the state's highest court to overturn a 2021 decision by regulators who rejected a ...
‘Plant the seed’: High schoolers explore trades at career ...
ABQnews Seeker
High schoolers explored career paths they ... High schoolers explored career paths they may not have considered before at an inaugural fair hosted by APS on Tuesday.
Details emerge in stolen car crash that critically injured ...
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police say a state employee ... Albuquerque police say a state employee left their work vehicle unlocked and running at the fairgrounds Monday morning before it was stolen by a ...
Four years after vetoing NM elected officials pay raise, ...
ABQnews Seeker
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not ... Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not yet acted on a bill that would boost the salary levels for all New Mexico statewide elected officials ...
Kyerewaa Abban-Thompson joins Lovelace
ABQnews Seeker
BRIEFCASE: She has worked as a ... BRIEFCASE: She has worked as a nurse for 18 years.
Sweet smell of success: State law now declares an ...
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico now has an official ... New Mexico now has an official state aroma. But a song will have to wait