Albuquerque Downs has released its track-record 34-race, $3.647-million stakes schedule for its 2019 Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meet, which opens Friday, June 28.
Of The Downs' 34 stakes races, 16 will be for Thoroughbreds and 18 will be for Quarter Horses. The track's Thoroughbred stakes will be worth an estimated $1.165 million, and its Quarter Horse stakes will be worth a track-record estimated $2.482 million, enhanced primarily by the American Quarter Horse Association Bank of America Challenge Championships on Saturday, October 26.
The Bank of America Challenge Championships is the year-end culmination of the Challenge program, which was conceived by the AQHA in the early 1990s to give top-flight Quarter Horses additional racing opportunities. Regional races held around the world, including South America and Canada, during the year give horses qualifying berths to the Challenge Championships, which annually brings together those top horses on a single night of racing.
Last year's Challenge Championships were run at Los Alamitos Racecourse near Los Angeles. This will mark the first time Albuquerque Downs will host the Challenge Championships, and it will mark the first time since 1993 that the event will be held in New Mexico. That year's inaugural Challenge Championships were held at Sunland Park Racetrack.
Ten Quarter Horse stakes will be contested at Albuquerque Downs on Challenge Championships night. The five graded stakes run that night will be topped by the 440-yard, $250,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1), which offers its winner a starting berth in the December 14, $600,000 Champion of Champions (G1) at Los Alamitos Racecourse, Quarter Horse racing's richest and most prestigious race for older horses.
“We are so excited about this,” said AQHA chief racing officer Janet Van Bebber. “AQHA appreciates (Albuquerque Downs chairman of the board) Paul Blanchard and president of racing Don Cook in their enthusiasm to conduct and host the Challenge Championships. Additionally, we appreciate the commitment they've shown the industry in renovations at their track, supporting integrity efforts, and efforts to further support and promote Quarter Horse racing.”
Other Quarter Horse stakes highlights include the fifth running of the 440-yard, $300,000 Albuquerque Fall Championship (G1). Presented by South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the Fall Championship will be one of seven stakes offered on Sunday, September 22.
Past winners of the Fall Championship include AQHA world champions JRS Callas First (2015) and Jessies First Down (2017 and '18). The winner of this year's Fall Championship will earn a berth in the 2019 Championship at Sunland Park (G1).
The track's richest race for any breed, the 74th running of the 400-yard, $400,000-estimated New Mexico State Fair Quarter Horse Futurity (RG3), will also be run on September 22. In addition, Albuquerque Downs will play host to one of the regional Challenge Championship qualifiers, the 870-yard, $52,000-estimated AQHA Albuquerque Distance Challenge (G3) on July 28.
The Downs' signature Thoroughbred stakes race, the 1 1/8-mile, $200,000 Downs at Albuquerque Handicap, will be run on Saturday, August 3. Last year's Downs at Albuquerque Handicap was won by Calumet Farm's Hence, a homebred son of Street Boss trained by Steve Asmussen and a 2017 Triple Crown contender.
“We expect to draw the best field we've ever had for this race this year,” said Albuquerque Downs president of racing Don Cook. “We've lowered the entry and starter fees, and instead of paying the connections of just the top six finishers — like we did last year — we'll be paying down 10 places.”
Other prominent Thoroughbred stakes include the 6-furlong, $200,000-est. New Mexico State Fair Thoroughbred Futurity (R) for state-bred 2-year-olds on September 22.
“This is the best stakes program we've had since I've been here, which is going on 30 years,” said Cook, who held several positions at The Downs before assuming his current post. “We have a strong Thoroughbred program with something for everyone, and we've never had as many as nine graded Quarter Horse stakes during a single meet.”
Live racing will be offered at The Downs on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, starting at 6:05 p.m. (MDT), and Sundays, starting at 1:30. The track's Wednesday programs will consist of nine Thoroughbred races and be featured on the TVG racing network. The schedule will change during the New Mexico State Fair portion of the meet in September.
Albuquerque Downs Racetrack and Casino are located in the heart of Albuquerque at Expo New Mexico, the home of the New Mexico State Fair. General admission and parking are always free (via the casino entrance near the northwest corner of Louisiana and Central), and complimentary valet parking is available during the live race meet. For more information, visit www.abqdowns.com and click on the “Racing” link at the top of the homepage.
ALBUQUERQUE DOWNS 2019 STAKES SCHEDULE
(All purses noted list guaranteed value, unless otherwise noted.)
June 28: Duke City Sprint Stakes (TB), 3-year-olds, 5 1/2 furlongs, $50,000
June 29: O.D. McDonald Handicap (R) (TB), New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds & older, 7 furlongs, $75,000
July 6: Petticoat Stakes (TB), New Mexico-bred 3-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs, $70,000
July 13: J.R. Malouff Handicap (TB), 3-year-olds & older, 7 furlongs
July 20: Charles Taylor Derby (TB), 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, $70,000
July 27: Downs at Albuquerque Marathon Stakes, 3-year-olds & older (claiming price, $6,250), 1 mile, $20,000
July 28: AQHA Albuquerque Distance Challenge Stakes (G3) (QH), 870 yards, $52,000-estimated
August 3: Albuquerque Distaff Stakes (TB), 3-year-olds & older fillies and mares, 1 mile, $55,000
August 3: Downs at Albuquerque Handicap (TB), 3-year-olds & older, 1 1/8 miles, $200,000
August 10: Manzano Stakes (TB), 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs, $50,000
August 17: Billy Powell Claiming Stakes (TB), 3-year-olds & older (claiming price, $6,250), 1 1/16 miles, $20,000
August 24: Carlos Salazar Stakes (TB), New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds & older fillies and mares, 6 1/2 furlongs, $70,000
August 25: First Moonflash Maturity (R) (QH), New Mexico-bred 4-year-olds & older, 440 yards, $85,000
August 31: Casino at the Downs Derby (R) (TB), New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds, 1 mile, $80,000
September 7: Balloon City Stakes (QH), 3-year-olds & older fillies and mares, 400 yards, $50,000
September 14: Casey Darnell Handicap (R) (TB), New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds & older, 5 1/2 furlongs, $70,000
September 21: Budweiser Special Stakes (TB), 3-year-olds & older, 6 1/2 furlongs, $55,000
September 22: La Fiesta Derby (QH), 3-year-olds, 400 yards, $200,000-estimated
September 22: New Mexico State Fair Futurity (RG3) (QH), New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds, 400 yards, $400,000-estimated
September 22: La Fiesta Futurity (QH), 2-year-olds, 400 yards, $300,000-estimated
September 22: New Mexico State Fair Derby (RG3) (QH), New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds, 400 yards, $200,000-estimated
September 22: New Mexico State Fair Thoroughbred Futurity (R) (TB), New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs, $200,000-estimated
September 22: Downs at Albuquerque Fall Championship, presented by South Point Hotel & Casino (G1) (QH), 3-year-olds & older, 440 yards, $300,000
September 23: Con Jackson Claiming Stakes (TB), 3-year-olds & older (claiming price, $6,250), 1 13/16 miles, $25,000
October 26: Sandia Stakes (QH), 3-year-olds & older, 870 yards, $30,000
October 26: Albuquerque Juvenile Stakes (QH), 2-year-olds, 350 yards, $30,000
October 26: Pitre GMC Distaff Stakes (QH), 3-year-olds & older fillies and mares, 400 yards, $35,000
October 26: Lobo Derby (QH), 3-year-olds, 400 yards, $35,000
October 26: Downs Casino Stakes (QH), 3-year-olds & older, 440 yards, $40,000
October 26: AQHA Distance Challenge Championship (G1), 3-year-olds & older, 870 yards, $100,000
October 26: John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2), 2-year-olds, 350 yards, $125,000
October 26: Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3), 3-year-olds, 400 yards, $150,000
October 26: Awards Recognition Concepts Distaff Challenge Championship (G1), 3-year-olds & older fillies and mares, 400 yards, $100,000
October 26: Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1), 3-year-olds & older, 440 yards, $250,000
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