Q-Racing Blog: What a Weekend

Ruidoso had an ultimate racing weekend July 5-8.

What a weekend to celebrate great racing.

It was more than about the numbers, nonetheless, here are the numbers. Total weekend handle during two days of Rainbow Futurity trials and then a day of Rainbow Derby trials was up 27 percent over last year. Sunday was Mike Smith Victory Celebration Day with the New Mexico-native and Triple Crown-winning jockey on hand. He signed posters and money from poster sales and donations totaled about $25,000, which all went to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Posters will be on sale for the remainder of the season with the money going to the PDJF. I should also give a nod to the good work done by our northern neighbor, Canterbury Park - their efforts combining with the "Jockeys and Jeans" fundraiser in late June raised a record $310,000.

Thursday, July 5

The Ruidoso Downs Racehorse Hall of Fame inductions were held that evening with hall of famers who have attended numerous induction ceremonies saying that this year’s evening was their all-time favorite. The night is a winning combination of respect for horsemen and horses along with a fun time. It was a winner on all counts.

The class of 2018 is owner/breeder Carl Pevehouse, jockey Cody Jensen, trainer Jaime Gomez and One Famous Eagle. Lowell Neumayer was given a special recognition award.

Friday, July 6, was the first of two days of Rainbow Futurity trials with the horses racing to the five-fastest times earning a spot in the $1 million Rainbow Futurity (G1) on July 22. The other five finalists were determined on Saturday’s trials. There were 14 trials each day.

The Friday finalists led to a handicapping question. Which is more important going into the Rainbow Futurity, stakes experience or horses moving forward while making their third career starts? The top-two qualifiers – Lethal Lil and One Famous Stone – each have stakes experience. The other three qualifiers – MM Fourninthemorning, Coach A Coming and Flying Cowboy 123 – made their second starts. Watch if this plays out and, if it does, watch the results.

Any evaluation of Friday’s qualifiers may be moot if Suze Returns continues her remarkable run. She may be turning form-cycle theories upside down. The filly just keeps getting better. She won the $269,000 West Texas Futurity (G2) at 300 yards by a neck and then was second to Blue Corazon in the $1 million Ruidoso Futurity (G1) over 350 yards.

Have these hard runs taken their toll? Will Suze Returns be able to handle 400 yards? She gave a firm answer in her Rainbow Futurity trial on Saturday, July 7.

Suze Returns had the trial under control within a few jumps and then put on a show. She pulled out to an overwhelming 2-length victory. Her time of :19.749 was easily the fastest qualifying time.

Can Suze Returns keep stepping forward? There is no sign of her weakening and she could be the story in the 2018 2-year-old division.

Sunday, July 8, was trial day for the $802,000 Rainbow Derby (G1), and days after the trials, I still can’t make any definitive evaluation. Fastest qualifier Sixes Crystal broke her maiden on May 5 in her sixth start. Ruidoso Derby winner Jess Move You was second in his trial and made the finals with the 10th-fastest mark. Hes Limitless holds the largest winning margin of any of the nine trials at 1 1/2 lengths. Take your best shot.

As a child, Mike Smith picked up tickets from the Ruidoso Downs’ grandstand floor and galloped horses at the mountain track, however, never rode in a race at Ruidoso Downs. He was born in Roswell, grew up outside of Dexter, New Mexico, and the fans loved him as a member of their family.

He signed posters at the east end of the grandstand. When he started to autograph posters, the line was halfway through the grandstand. Gov. Susana Martinez proclaimed that July 8 will always be Mike Smith Day in New Mexico. Cong. Steve Pearce presented Smith with a United States flag that flew over the Capitol. New Mexico Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen gave Smith a Senate Memorial. It was quite a day for the homeboy.

Smith said that on the morning of the Belmont Stakes, he told trainer Bob Baffert, “We’re going to leave there like it’s the All American Futurity.” Justify and Smith did just that and took the Triple Crown. After the Belmont, he said on national television, while still on Justify, “He left there like he was going 440 yards at Ruidoso, New Mexico.” You can’t buy that nationwide exposure.

Smith attracted people to Ruidoso Downs on the day that the Rainbow Derby trials were held. Not a bad deal for American Quarter Horse racing.

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