Did you know Ruidoso has one of the country’s best horse racing tracks? If you want to visit one of the summer’s big races — but you don’t know much about racehorses — here’s a quick guide to getting the most out of a weekend at the track.
The annual spring and summer horse racing meet at Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino begins Friday with quarter horse trials for 2-year-old's.
What does horse racing mean to Ruidoso
The racetrack is home to the Triple Crown for 2-year-old and 3-year-old quarter horses and each age group has three major races, the Ruidoso Futurity, the Ruidoso Derby, the Rainbow Futurity the Rainbow Derby, the All American Futurity and the All American Derby. The $3 million All American Futurity, which is held on Labor Day is the world's most famous quarter horse race. Horses must qualify for each final through a set of trial races which are held two weeks before the finals. Thoroughbred racing will also take place throughout the meet, but the Ruidoso track is more well known for the quarter horse breed.
What is the difference between quarter horses and thoroughbreds
Quarter horses run shorter distances in yards and the longest distance they run at is 870 yards, but many of the races are held at 440 yards or less. Thoroughbreds can compete at 870 yards, but many of them compete in races 4 1/2 furlongs and longer.
Key dates for horse racing
Opening weekend is Friday through Monday, then over the course of the summer, racing will be held on a Friday through Sunday format, except for closing day on Labor Day, Sept. 4, which is a Monday.
June 10-11 are the dates for the Ruidoso Derby and Ruidoso Futurity, respectively.
July 15-16 are the dates for the Rainbow Derby and Rainbow Futurity, respectively.
Sept 3-4 are the dates for the All American Derby and All American Futurity, respectively.
Post times for the first two days of racing are at noon but for much of the racing meet, the first post will be at 1 p.m. Earlier post times are usually held on trial days for the main quarter horse races.
Parking, seating, programs
Parking and seating are typically free for those who visit the track and casino, although the facility offers assigned seating for a cost. If interested in assigned seating, contact the racetrack at (575) 378-4431 or email@example.com.
It is easy to park and walk right into the facility, where you can buy a program at the track with the day's races. The program lists the type of race, past performances, the jockey the trainer and where it has raced recently. Children are allowed into the races with their families.
Top trainers at the racetrack
Among the top quarter horse trainers scheduled to have horses stabled this summer are Heath Taylor, John Stinebaugh, Trey Wood, Michael Joiner, Eric Valenzuela, James Gonzales II, Christopher O'Dell, Wes Giles, Clinton Crawford and Toby Keeton.
Some of the trainers in Ruidoso race year-round in the state of New Mexico and some come just for the Ruidoso meet, and compete at other well known quarter horse venues in California, Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona throughout the year.
Many of the top trainers are quarter-horse specific and some of them spend the winter and early spring racing at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino near El Paso.
Top jockeys at the racetrack
Among the top quarter horse jockeys are Francisco Calderon, Ricky Ramirez, Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo, Noe Garcia, Jr., Christian Ramos, Adrian Ramos, Eduardo Nicasio and Sergio Becerra, Jr.
Some of the jockeys in Ruidoso ride year round in New Mexico and some come for the Ruidoso meet, while competing at other quarter horse venues in California, Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona.
Many of the top jockeys are quarter-horse specific and some of them spend the winter and early spring riding at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino near El Paso.
Other entertainment options at the track
There will also be live music on selected nights at the racetrack throughout the spring and summer. A new cantina was built replacing the old sports bar and includes trackside seating along with a bar area. The casino is open seven days a week.
Types of bets at the racetrack
Horse racing fans can wager in a variety of ways at the racetrack, including win, place and show bets, exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagering and the racetrack offers wagering on other tracks around the nation.
If you place a win bet, the horse has to win, if it's a place bet, the horse can finish first or second and with a show bet, the horse can finish first second or third. In the exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagers, it involves two, three and four horses, respectively.
The minimum bet for win, place or show is $2 and if you win, the payout will vary on the final odds. In the exotic bets such as the exacta, trifecta and superfecta, minimum bets range from 10 cents for a superfecta bet and $1 for an exacta and trifecta bet. The winning amount in those wagers depends on pool amounts wagered on the horses on your betting ticket.
What to do in Ruidoso
Fore more information on other activities in Ruidoso and Lincoln Country, visit the Chamber of Commerce website at: Ruidoso Valley Chamber of Commerce – Ruidoso Valley Chamber of Commerce (ruidosonow.com)
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Felix F. Chavez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; @Fchavezeptimes on Twitter
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: A guide to horse racing meet at Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino