New Mexico’s racino and horse racing industries are hitched at the hip. The racinos need the races to have slots, and the horsemen need a place to run their ponies for prize money.
New Mexico’s purse money averages about $45 million annually, and that can entice owners and trainers to race horses that are injured, doped up or too young.
And 2012 was a poster year for doping horses in New Mexico. Four trainers were sanctioned after a rash of horses tested positive for doping drugs in late May during qualifying races for the $600,000 Ruidoso Futurity and the $679,207 Ruidoso Derby.
One of the doped horses, the second-fastest qualifier for the $2.4 million All American Futurity held annually on Labor Day, had to be euthanized in mid-August after breaking down during a race at the Ruidoso track.
New Mexico also is notorious for its poor safety record. A New York Times investigation published last March found that from 2009-11 of the six tracks with the worst safety records in the nation, five were in New Mexico. Ruidoso Downs topped the list. The investigation blamed lax rules and poor enforcement.
Since then, the New Mexico Racing Commission, appointed by the governor, has adopted stricter regulations and penalties for horse doping. They went into effect in July.
Currently, the commission funds racehorse testing through the state’s general fund, receiving about $366,000 a year. But racing officials have said there’s not enough money for testing.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, is asking for the state to double and possibly triple the amount of money it spends to test racehorses for illegal substances.
Senate Bill 72 would redirect 50 percent of a tax levied on racinos to a “racehorse testing fund” administered by the commission. It could generate about $1 million annually.
While no one can argue that more testing and better enforcement are essential to restoring horse racing’s honor, not to mention protecting the lives of jockeys and the beautiful animals that generate profit for human owners and handlers, why should taxpayers have to foot the bill to guarantee these industries operate legally and ethically?
Purse money in New Mexico is among the highest in the nation, so it makes sense for racinos and horse owners to pony up the cost of testing. And the state should require them to test every horse before every race.
— Albuquerque Journal