Q-Racing Blog: All American Time

All American celebrations begin next week.

The All American celebration begins next week.

The All American Futurity surpasses classic. It passed iconic. It is the race that every breeder, owner, trainer and jockey wants to win and it’s not just because of the money (although, that helps).

In many ways, it is 2-year-old American Quarter Horse racing.

Two men who have poured millions of dollars into Quarter Horse racing over decades are Bobby Cox and R.D. Hubbard. Neither of them has yet won the All American Futurity. Both men are still trying with premier prospects. But then consider the owners who scored on their first try. That’s the All American. You just keep trying.

Consider the fans. Every Labor Day, the fans start lining up along the rail at midmorning. Then the regular parking lots fill up and by about noon, cars are parking out by the highway with shuttle service. When Ruidoso Downs is filled, there are about 25,000 in attendance. Lincoln County, the home of Ruidoso Downs, has about 22,000 residents. The All American Futurity attendance is higher than any home attendance reported at a University of New Mexico football game last year.

There is a perpetual attraction to the All American Futurity.

The money has always attracted breeders to make that nomination payment on newly-turned yearlings. The total purse now is $3 million. Plus, if a horse is paid through the trial entry fee, then that horse can continue payments for the seven-figure All American Derby. The financial incentive has always been there. The first All American Futurity in 1959 had a purse of $129,686 and that was the all-time highest purse in Quarter Horse racing up until that time.

The All American Futurity purse is the largest purse of any race for Quarter Horse 2-year-olds in North America. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has a $2 million purse and the Breeders Crown for harness horses offers a $500,000 pot to 2-year-old pacers and another $500,000 purse for 2-year-old trotters. You’d have to add those three races together to match the All American Futurity.

Then there is what is affectionately called “Ruidoso Roulette.” That term is applied to the two days of All American Futurity trials (on August 17-18 this year). It is all based on several simple facts. First, Quarter Horse racing is run on a straightaway. Second, Ruidoso Downs is located at an altitude of about 6,500 feet. Third, Ruidoso Downs is located in the mountains. Fourth, the All American Futurity trials are contested during the summer monsoon season. Mixed together and you get changing conditions throughout the day. It can be clear for the first trial and raining for the last trial. Or the other way around. It can be a tailwind for the first trial and a headwind for the final trial. Or the other way around. Or is can constantly change throughout the trials.

Throw in that All American Futurity trials are timed down to the thousandth of a second with the five fastest horses on each day eligible for the $3 million finals. Add the simple fact that Quarter Horses – still maturing 2-year-olds, in this case – can stumble or hit another horse at the start.

The same holds true for all Quarter Horse trials at Ruidoso Downs. Ruidoso Roulette.

That is also why people keep making payments. They never know when, on trial day, the track will be dry and there will be a howling tailwind for their horse. After all, the root word for futurity is future.

That is what the All American Futurity is all about, the future.

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