Long Hot Summer — How many ways can you lose?

Every summer it’s time for our thoroughbred horses to leave home (Phoenix, AZ) and race in a more temperate climate.  The 100 degree temperatures of Phoenix are too stressful for our equine family.

For the last few years, we have traveled to Farmington and Albuquerque New Mexico for racing at Sunray Park and Albuquerque Downs.  Racing in New Mexico is extremely challenging.  Being away from home is hard enough, but competing in an environment that favors local trainers and horses adds to the mix.  It’s not that it’s unfair, it’s just that the number of races available to horses that are not New Mexico bred are often limited.  This is then compounded by the difference in the geography.

New Mexico is at a much higher altitude and so our horses first must become accustomed to that change.  The soil conditions are different as well.  It is more mountainous in the NM area than in urban Phoenix.  There are more rocks and stones that the horses are not used to running on.

This led to our first trial in attempting to win in New Mexico.  At least two of our dozen horses that we took to New Mexico suffered from foot problems.  One of our fillies was unable to race the entire summer because she was so “tender” footed.  An older gelding had some foot problems which were solved about half way through the summer.

Another consideration is the configuration and the depth of the tracks.  The tracks in New Mexico are called “Bull Ring” tracks which means they are smaller, more round than oval and as a result have much sharper turns.  The depth of the tracks also effects the horses.  It’s almost like running on the beach rather than on solid ground.  As a result, many of our horses tired early.  Some of our horses actually like the tracks for the configuration as well as the depth.  Unfortunately, not many races were available for them this year.

We have one horse who is very big and he has great difficulty with the sharp turns.  So as fast as he is, Sunray Park was not a good fit for him.  We had one horse that we were sure would be a winner this summer because he likes the smaller track.  In his first race for us at Sunray Park he took a bad step which proved to be fatal and had to be put down.  This was a heartbreaker for sure.

We finally got near the end of the meet and our horse Elusive Moment won a race, only to be disqualified.  This was definitely a game changer.  After reviewing the race several times I was convinced that the stewards made a terrible mistake and our horse should be awarded the win.  After a few discussions with the trainer, it was decided that because it was just a claiming race, we had little or no chance of winning and the cost of fighting the decision not worth it.  If it had been an allowance or stake race, there is no doubt that we would have fought that decision, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.

Down to our last four races of the meet and we were ready to go.  We had two races on Sunday and two races on the last day of the meet, Tuesday.  The horses in the two races on Sunday were picked to come in second or third by the handicapper.  We were feeling confident that these two races would make the summer.

Mother Nature decided to work against us.  Farmington got a great deal of rain and the track was flooded.  Racing was cancelled for Friday and Saturday.  We were hoping the track would be fit by Sunday.  I followed the weather reports for Farmington and the chance of additional rain on Sunday was at 15%.  I was confident that we had dodged the bullet.  No such luck.

Early this morning, I received a text message from our trainer.  The last two days of racing at Sunray Park had officially been cancelled.

How many ways can you lose?  We lost a horse, we were disqualified and finally the weather did us in.

I am hoping that bad luck comes in threes so that we have finished our bad streak.  There are some races back at Albuquerque during the month of September, so I think we will try there again.

October 17th is opening day at Turf Paradise and I can hardly wait.  There is no place like home.

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