Ray Willis Elected Chairman of NM Racing Commission

Also, the commission is seeking applicants for the newly created position of field/safety steward.

Press release

The New Mexico Racing Commission has elected Ray Willis of Roswell to serve as its chairman.

At the January 21 New Mexico Racing Commission monthly meeting, the commission elected longtime American Quarter Horse owner and breeder Ray Willis of Roswell to serve as its chairman.

Willis replaces Robert Doughty III of Albuquerque, who will remain on the commission.

A native of Luling, Texas, Willis has been actively involved in New Mexico's horse racing industry as an owner and breeder since 1981. He has worked for Roswell-based Hanson Operating Company Inc., an oil and gas exploration and development firm, for more than 55 years and currently serves as its president.

The commission also elected Gayla McCulloch of Farmington to serve as its co-chair. McCulloch replaces Beverly Bourguet of Albuquerque as co-chair. Bourguet will remain on the commission.

McCulloch is a second-generation commission member; her father, the late Jimmy A. Drake, served on the board from 1980-85 and was instrumental in the opening of San Juan Downs Racetrack near Farmington. She has served on the Farmington City Council, is an American Quarter Horse Association director and is a past president of the New Mexico Quarter Horse Association.

In addition, the New Mexico Racing Commission is seeking applicants to fill its newly created position of field/safety steward. The five-member commission unanimously approved the position at its regular monthly meeting on January 21. The job description is similar to that of field/safety steward posts in states such as California, New York, and Florida, according to commission acting executive director Dan Fick.

“The field/safety steward will be able to deal with any situation that might come up at any racetrack in our state,” Fick said. “For example, he or she could be at the track at 6 a.m., watching morning workouts. On race days, he or she can be the eyes and ears of the board of stewards in the paddock or starting gate. They can be wherever they need to be on a case-by-case basis.

“They can also serve on the board of stewards if one of the three stewards needs to take a leave of absence,” he added. “This position will also give horsemen better access to the stewards, because the person who fills it can be out interacting with horsemen and acting as a liaison — and that will improve the line of communications.”

Here is the official job description for the position of field/safety steward: “Individual will provide the presence of an accredited steward anywhere at any time on the grounds of a licensed racing facility. They will be responsible for the monitoring of activities throughout the barn area, racetrack, and any other restricted areas for potential rule violations and unsafe conditions and situations during training and the conduct of races to help ensure the integrity of horse racing and safety of the horses and participants.”

Interested applicants for the position of field/safety steward at the 36-day SunRay Park meet in Farmington, which runs April 18-June 20, must be a ROAP-accredited steward and familiar with all aspects of the horse racing safety requirement. Interested applicants can send their resume and contact information to Rosemary Garley at the commission at rosemary.garley@state.nm.us.

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