A 10-race program, consisting of five Thoroughbred and five Quarter Horse races and headlined by the $60,000 O.D. McDonald Handicap (R), will open Albuquerque Downs’ 2017 summer season on Saturday.
Post time for the first race is set for 6:05 p.m. (MDT).
The 7-furlong O.D. McDonald Handicap is restricted to New Mexico-bred Thoroughbreds and has drawn a field of 10, topped by defending champion Citizen Geller and Stormin The Jewels, a two-time stakes winner at Albuquerque Downs who has been assigned to carry top weight of 122 pounds by first-year racing secretary Gerald Richards.
Citizen Geller is a homebred 5-year-old gelding owned by Larry and Denise Nichols’ UKUSA Stables of El Paso, Texas, and is named after Robert Geller, the track announcer at Sunland Park Racetrack in New Mexico and Woodbine Racetrack near Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A native of Australia, Geller became a U.S. citizen in 2012. Citizen Geller, the horse, outran his 20-1 odds to score a one-length victory in last year’s O.D. McDonald.
Stormin The Jewels races for John and Sue May’s J & SM Inc. of Fort Stockton, Texas. The 4-year-old gelding’s record at Albuquerque Downs includes a one-length victory in last year’s 6 1/2-furlong, $107,977 Casino at the Downs Derby (R), and a 1 1/4-length win in the 5-furlong, $205,185 Camino Real Futurity (R) in 2015.
The O.D. McDonald Handicap will be the sixth race on the card. Estimated post time is 8:10 p.m. The complete lineup, in post position order including jockey and weight assignments and morning-line odds — D E Lover (J. Martin Bourdieu, 119), 10-1; Desert Mystery (David M. Lopez, 118), 10-1; Shining Source (Elvin Gonzalez, 121), 7-2; Go For A Stroll (Tracy Hebert, 120), 9-2; Citizen Geller (Miguel Perez, 119), 8-1; Storm Warrior (Isaias Cardenas, 116), 20-1; Liberty Lover (Alejandro Medellin, 119), 5-1; Song Of Laura (Jorge Carreno, 118), 12-1; Stormin The Jewels (Enrique Gomez, 122), 3-1; and That’s Who (Alfredo Juarez Jr., 118), 20-1.
According to Albuquerque Downs director of racing Don Cook, the track projects to pay $11 million in purses to horsemen during the season, an average of approximately $190,000 per day. The track’s record 20-race, $2.5-million stakes schedule includes 12 races for Thoroughbreds worth approximately $1.1 million and eight races for Quarter Horses worth approximately $1.4 million.
Albuquerque Downs’ Quarter Horse stakes schedule will be headlined by the third running of the 440-yard, $250,000 Albuquerque Fall Championship on closing day, September 24. For the first time this year, the Albuquerque Fall Championship will offer its winner a starting berth in the 440-yard, $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1) at Los Alamitos in December, Quarter Horse racing’s richest and most prestigious race for older horses.
The Albuquerque Fall Championship is one of only four races outside of California that will offer Champion of Champions berths to their winners. The inaugural running of the Albuquerque Fall Championship in 2015 was won by JRC Callas First, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) 2014 world champion.
Albuquerque Downs’ signature Thoroughbred stakes race, the 1 1/8-mile, $200,000 Downs at Albuquerque Handicap, will be run on August 5. Last year’s Downs at Albuquerque Handicap, which offered a purse of $175,000, was won by Smack Smack, a homebred gelding owned by country music star Toby Keith’s Dream Walkin Farms.
“We were pleased with the field we had for this race last year, and we added $25,000 to the purse for this year,” said Albuquerque Downs director of racing Don Cook said. “Our goal is to eventually get this race and the Fall Quarter Horse Championship graded.”
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Albuquerque Downs will offer live racing on a Wednesday and Friday-through-Sunday schedule through September 3. Post time will be 6:05 p.m. (MDT) on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 1:30 p.m. on Sundays. The schedule will change during the last three weeks of the season, which includes the New Mexico State Fair portion of the meet.
In addition to the traditional wagers, fans on track will be able to participate in a new “odd-even” wager on five designated races per day. If a patron bets on the “even” number in a race, he or she cashes if a horse with an even program number (i.e., 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12) wins that race. If a patron bets on the “odd” number, he or she cashes if a horse with an odd program number (i.e., 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11) wins the race.
The “odd-even” wager is a $1 minimum bet and is designed to appeal to newcomers. For newcomers and serious fans alike, Albuquerque Downs will also offer handicapping seminars every Saturday. The seminars will be hosted by track racing analyst and handicapper Jim Collins and will take place before the live races begin.
Also starting this season, on-track fans will be able to wager on their mobile devices by downloading an app and opening a mobile-wagering account.
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