SunRay season forced to wrap up early
FARMINGTON — When all was said and done, there was just no way to save the season.
That was the message across the board this past weekend at SunRay Park and Casino, where track management, in a coordinated decision with horsemen and officials from the New Mexico Racing Commission, opted to scrap the final two days of racing of the 2015 season.
Damages from a massive rainstorm last week caused drainage system issues on the track, which made some areas of the track unsafe. Despite repeated efforts from the track's superintendent, there was simply too much risk to horses and jockeys to hold racing on the final four days of the season.
"We simply couldn't overcome the damage to the backstretch," Director of Racing Lonnie Barber said Sunday morning. "There was too much water damage and we came to the conclusion it was safest for all involved for us to take the time and fix the issue and not put anyone at risk."
In all, 38 races were scrapped from the final four days of the season. More than $634,000 in purse monies will be distributed equally among all horsemen who had been entered to run in races on those programs, according to Barber.
Two stakes races, the traditional closing day $75,000 San Juan County Commissioner's Handicap, as well as Sunday's $45,000 New Mexico Horsemen's Association Handicap, were among the richest casualties of the cancellations.
As a result of the cancellations, many horsemen were making plans a bit earlier than expected to travel south for the upcoming racing seasons at either Zia Park in Hobbs, or the State Fair season of racing at the Downs at Albuquerque.
The state fair season at the Downs season gets underway on Sept. 11, with 17 straight days of racing through Sept. 27. The 2015 season at Zia Park is set to begin on Sept. 12., where they will race 56 days, ending on Dec. 15.
Racing in the state of New Mexico will be held at Ruidoso Downs this week, including the traditional closing day program on Labor Day. In that program, two of the richest races in all of quarter horse racing - the All American Derby and All American Futurity - will be showcased.
SEASON ENDING AWARDS
Jockey Jose Luis Enriquez narrowly claims the SunRay quarter horse riding title over Martin Bourdieu. Both riders won 16 races during the season, but Enriquez had 14 second-place finishes over Bourdieu's 12.
For Enriquez, it's his first riding title at SunRay Park.
Trainer Ken Grisham, who saddled winners in both Futurities this season, claimed his first training title as well. He won the quarter horse training title over Wes Giles.
For the season, Grisham had 10 winners, compared to seven for Giles.
Grisham saddled both Good Job Honey to victory in the Four Corners Futurity, as well as Rg Miracle in the New Mexico Breeders' Futurity.
Once again, Justin Evans wins the title of leading thoroughbred trainer at SunRay, distancing himself ahead of his competition. For the season, Evans saddled 27 winners, 11 more than Henry Dominguez.
Jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr., claimed the thoroughbred riding championship this season, prevailing over Frank Reyes.
Juarez rode 31 winners this season, compared to 25 for Reyes.
Leading owners this season were Jackie and Sylvia Herron, who represented 11 winners in the 2015 season. Their most notable winner may have been Desert Jack, who was victorious at the Jack Cole Handicap. Silverhill is near the top of that winner's list as well. He completed a clean sweep in his races this season, winning all three times, including last week in the SunRay Park and Casino Handicap.
Steve Bortstein hosts "First Sports" and "The Fast Track" on Fox Sports 1340 AM and 93.9 FM and on iHeartRadio. He serves as paddock show host at SunRay Park & Casino and is a voting member of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Follow him @fox1340am on Twitter.