Q-Racing Blog: Summertime

The weather and the horses are looking good.

Quarter Racing Journal

The weather and the horses are looking good.

Looking over the Ruidoso Downs racetrack after training hours, a lone John Deere tractor pulls a harrow around the track. It moves at a leisurely, precise pace. The mountains overlooking the track are a deep green and with each drop of rain the infield grass gains another hue of green. A parade of horse trailers brought in horses to fill the backside.

All is well.

The best part is racing starts this weekend. It’s like if you go to a pool and just jump in the deep end. The Ruidoso season starts in the deep end. No sticking your foot in to get an idea of the water temperature. Riders up. Let’s go.

There are two days of trials to the $1 million Ruidoso Futurity (G1) on Friday and Saturday. These days Ruidoso Futurity trials are different than in years past. Many of the horses in the trials are making their career debuts. Previously, many of the horses had raced before they came to Ruidoso.

A random, unofficial, anecdotal survey had many trainers saying two things: They want a fresh horse in August for All American Futurity trials and they want a horse that can run at 3-years-old with the large derby purses at Ruidoso Downs.

After the organized bedlam of entering 293 2-year-olds in the futurity trials, putting together the derby trials was straightforward. Agents and trainers made their entries with professional ease. If you’ve ever worked in a racing office, you understand.

The 400-yard Ruidoso Derby trials are run on Sunday, May 29. The draw was a week earlier.
 The draw was in the sales pavilion. It was dimly lighted and stacks of orange chairs, not six-figure yearlings, were in the ring. The tables for the draw were set up in front of the ring. Racing secretary Johnny Montes, trainer Jackie Riddle (the go-to draw horseman) and the racing officials were ready to do work. The trials had been set for the draw and the position of each race on the card was being determined by a draw.

Agents, whose blood must be 50-percent caffeine, and trainers bantered and then went dead silent when Montes started the draw. After each trial was drawn, then the agents and trainers made any needed jockey adjustments. The same procedure repeated trial after trial.

Then came the 10th of the 15 trials and the been-there, done-that regularity of drawing races abruptly changed as it will at Ruidoso. Pill number six was pulled and the post position was assigned to All American Futurity winner Jess Good Candy. Pill number nine came out and All American Futurity runner-up One Fabulous Eagle’s entry was drawn. The 10th trial went from just another trial to a rematch between the top-two finishers in the 2015 All American Futurity.

The agents and trainers — who had probably been through hundreds or thousands of bland draws — buzzed. They smiled and nodded their heads. Yes, we had a real horserace in the trials.

Ruidoso was underway. It’s where the unexpected becomes expected. The quality runs deep and makes Grade 1-level races out of trials.

Oh, by the way, there is currently a 10-mph headwind. Yes, Ruidoso trials are here. Bring ‘em on.

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