Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in New Mexico

Returning meet at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino wraps up on positive note

The 55-day 2021-22 Sunland Park meet is in the books and after Sunday’s last race, it can be considered a success.

In March of 2020, the Sunland Derby and the final few weeks of the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 virus. The 2020-21 season never happened as the casino stayed closed until early March of 2021. With the closing of the casino, that in turn affected racing since casino money is used to help the money allotted for horse racing purses.

But the racetrack opened in December and the Sunland meet found success. The Sunland Derby returned on March 27 with Slow Down Andy winning and earning 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. Nearly $3.5 million was wagered during the 12 races on Sunland Derby day and there were nearly 17,000 people in attendance.

Sunland Park Purse increase

The final month of the meet [horse racing in New Mexico] also saw a 25 percent purse increase and the amount of races per race day, which were Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, increased from 9 to 10, 11 and eventually 12 races per day.

“We were happy with the meet,” said Dustin Dix, who is the Director of Racing at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino. “We had quality racing in terms of both thoroughbreds and quarter horses. Having the return of the Sunland Derby was big for us, it is certainly a highlight of the meet.”

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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