Racehorse dead in the dirt at NM racetrack. Photo: Jakob Schiller.

New Mexico seeks more funding to crack down on horse race cheating

Racehorse dead in the dirt at NM racetrack.  Photo: Jakob Schiller.
PHOTO CREDIT: JAKOB SCHILLER
Racehorse dead in the dirt in New Mexico. The State racing commission seeks additional funding for additional drug testing. Image not filed with original report.

MILAN SIMONICH, reporting for the Alamogordo Daily News, writes:

    SANTA FE — Some of New Mexico’s biggest drug dens are at its five horse tracks, the executive director of the state Racing Commission told legislators on Thursday.

    The commission is seeking a budget increase of almost $800,000, in part to test more racehorses for performance-enhancing drugs and to hire three more employees, including another track investigator.

    “New Mexico has a drug problem,” said Vince Mares, who directs the Racing Commission’s day-to-day operations. “I’ve identified people who have doped horses and caused the deaths of horses.”

    Mares, testifying before the Legislative Finance Committee, said the underlying message of inadequate testing is that horse owners and trainers “have to cheat to compete.”

Well, this is not news to us who follow horse racing in America. Racehorse doping is a problem that continues to plague the sport with no end in sight.

New Mexico, who received a couple of big black eyes from the New York Times who reported they found “five of the seven U.S. tracks with the highest rates of horse breakdowns and deaths” were in their State, now seeks additional funding to begin remedying the situation.

The New Mexico Horseracing Commission currently has an annual budget of $1.98 million, and are asking the State to raise it to $2.75 million next year. The Commission says they intend to spend the money on more drug testing. This may be a good investment if used the right way. According to the Commission’s estimate, “the horse racing industry is worth $175 million a year to New Mexico’s economy”.

Simonich reports in the same article:

    One ongoing concern for the health of jockeys and horses is the condition of the track at Zia Park in Hobbs, Mares said. The commission has hired an outside expert to assess the track.

    Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said track safety was paramount to her.

    “One breakdown of a horse because of track conditions is one too many,” Papen said.

    Mares agreed. But he said, when necropsies of fallen horses reveal a heart that exploded, the issue is performance-enhancing drugs, not dangerous tracks.

We have heard of the reasons racehorses breakdown and die in many different ways, but “a heart that exploded” is graphic terminology new to even us.

Read referenced article in full: “N.M. horse tracks experiencing drug problem“; by Milan Simonich; October 26, 2012.