By Jenny Kane
The Daily Times
FARMINGTON In less than a month horses and jockeys will charge down the tracks at SunRay Park and Casino.
While few race horses are based in Farmington, they soon will be arriving from all over the Southwest.
SunRay is expecting to open its track to the horses early next month. Before they do, both the race track and the race participants will be getting ready.
"They're ready to run now," said Joyce Harris, a local race horse owner and trainer from Flora Vista.
Harris, who has raised horses for the past 30 years with her husband, said that most of the horses already are fully prepared to race. Usually the horses spend the winter in southern New Mexico or Arizona, where more of the towns have training facilities.
"They're being fed up like horses," Harris said, noting that their routine does not change much throughout the year.
Training is year-round for the equine athletes, though they usually get about two months off.
That break is not scheduled, but instead comes whenever the horses indicate that they need a break.
"They will let you know," Harris said.
Otherwise, they are strictly tied to a daily routine that consists of walking in the morning and practice racing every other day. They have two days off in between the daily routine.
While drug testing for horses was part of the debate during the New Mexico legislative session that just ended, Harris said she is not concerned about it, nor are most horse trainers and owners who do not feed their horses performance-enhancing drugs.
"I don't give the horses anything I wouldn't take," Harris said.
The track is also readying itself for the season.
SunRay, which has the only race track in the Four Corners, is expected to hire 75 to 100 additional staff during racing season. Many of them will be hired to ensure that all of the participants are following procedure.
"We're going to get tougher and tougher," said Lonnie Barber, SunRay director of racing.
Still, the talk about stricter regulation is not expected to dissuade fans from attending the races. SunRay has between 1,000 and 5,000 attendees at any one race, depending on the hype surrounding it, Barber said. The local races that coincide with nationally popular races are the most well attended.
SunRay has about nine races per racing day, with as many as 10 horses in each race.
"We're always excited to see people come back," Barber said. "It's really a boost for the whole county."
For more information about the SunRay races go to http://www.sunraygaming.com/ or call 505-566-1200.