Springtime brings racing back to SunRay

Steve Bortstein
For The Daily Times
RG Miracle, shown here winning the Grade 3 Downs at Albuquerque Futurity on Sept. 26, will be looking to get back into the winners' circle on Friday in the Animas Quarter Horse Stakes at SunRay Park and Casino.

FARMINGTON – Things should have ended much differently at the end of the racing season last year.

A torrential rainstorm in August, and subsequent damage to much of the backstretch and racetrack area around SunRay Park and Casino forced a premature ending to its live season.

The final four days of racing, including the running of the track’s richest thoroughbred race, the San Juan County Commissioner's Handicap, was halted as the track was deemed unsafe.

Fast forward some eight months, and SunRay Park and Casino is ready to get back on track with Friday's highly anticipated opening day of the 36-day season.

"It was a lot of work to get everything back as quickly as we did, but it's even better than we'd hoped," said SunRay general manager Brad Boehm earlier this week. "The costs to get the work done on the backstretch and the time involved in it have us ready, and our track people have done a great job in getting us ready to go."

Just a couple hours after the final race at SunRay on August 25, 2015, the rainstorm did significant damage to many areas around San Juan County. Schools were closed, and bridges and roads were heavily damaged in surrounding areas.

As the storm passed, repeated efforts to get the racing surface at SunRay Park back in good condition were deemed unsuccessful as a result of the flooding.

Following the rainstorm last summer, Lonnie Barber, SunRay’s director of racing, said the damage from the rain was significant enough to close the track, thus canceling the final four days of the season.

With a return to a springtime schedule for this season, and a great deal of renewed optimism that comes with the start of a new campaign, SunRay is definitely ready to begin with a strong nine-race card on Friday's opening day.

In all, 81 horses were entered for the opening day card, which makes for excellent wagering opportunities for horseplayers and handicappers.

There appears to be a little bit of everything on the opening weekend, highlighted by the $35,100 Animas Quarter Horse Stakes, which will go as the eighth race on the card.

One bonus for Friday’s card, and perhaps the most silver of linings from the hectic end to last year's racing season, is a carryover pool for one of the track's most difficult, yet rewarding wagers.

The Super High-5, also known as a pentafecta, requires bettors to select the first five finishers in the final race of the day.

Normally, racetracks are required to give away these carryover pools on the final day of the season. Since there was no scheduled final day, the pool of $2,717 was put aside for the next racing day, which is Friday.

Racing will be held Friday through Monday until June 20, with the first post times of weekdays at 3 p.m., and the first post times of weekends at 1:15 p.m.

The $34,400 Inaugural Handicap is set to be the featured event on Saturday, and the $40,000 Russell and Helen Foutz Distaff Handicap will headlined an all-thoroughbred program on Monday.

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.