Record $2.5M Stakes Schedule On Tap For The Downs At Albuquerque

The Downs at Albuquerque has released its track-record 20-race, $2.5-million stakes schedule for its 2017 Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meet, which opens June 24.

Of The Downs 20 stakes races, 12 will be for Thoroughbreds and eight will be for Quarter Horses. The track's Thoroughbred stakes will be worth an estimated $1.1 million million, and its Quarter Horse stakes will be worth an estimated $1.4 million.

The track's richest race for any breed, the second running of the 400-yard, $300,000-estimated La Fiesta Futurity (R) for 2-year-old Quarter Horses, will be one of four stakes contested on closing day, September 24. The track's showcase Quarter Horse race, the 440-yard, $250,000 Albuquerque Fall Championship, will for the first time in its brief history offer its winner a starting berth in this year's 440-yard, $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1) at Los Alamitos, 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 others are the Remington Park Invitational Championship (G1) at Remington Park in Oklahoma City in June, the All American Derby (G1) at Ruidoso Downs in September, and the Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows near Des Moines, Iowa, in October.

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.

“Our Fall Quarter Horse Championship has quickly become one of the most important races on the national stakes calendar, and for us to be able to offer a Champion of Champions berth in just its third year is pretty remarkable,” said Downs at Albuquerque director of racing Don Cook. “We think this will allow us to continue to attract the best Quarter Horses in the world for the race, and we're excited about that.”

Other Quarter Horse stakes highlights include the 440-yard, $150,000-estimated First Moonflash Maturity (R) for older New Mexico-bred horses on August 27; the 400-yard, $250,000-estimated New Mexico State Fair Futurity (RG3) for state-bred 2-year-olds on September 23; and the 400-yard, $200,000-estimated New Mexico State Fair Derby (RG3) for state-bred 3-year-olds on September 24.

The New Mexico State Fair Futurity began with its first running in 1946, when AQHA champion Pelican earned the winner's share of the purse, and it is one of the oldest Quarter Horse stakes in the country. Past winners include AQHA champions Maddon's Bright Eyes (1948), Black Easter Bunny ('51), Now I Know ('95) and First Moonflash (2007).

In addition, The Downs at Albuquerque will play host to a stakes in the AQHA's Bank of America Racing Challenge program. The winner of the 870-yard, $50,000-added AQHA Albuquerque Distance Challenge (G3) on July 23 will earn a starting berth in the October 14, $125,000 AQHA Distance Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows.

The 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,” Cook said. “Our goal is to eventually get this race and the Fall Quarter Horse Championship graded.”

Other prominent Thoroughbred stakes include the 6 1/2-furlong, $135,000-estimated Casino at the Downs Derby (R) for New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds on September 3; and the 6-furlong, $200,000-estimated New Mexico State Fair Futurity (R) on closing day.

“Last year was the first where we offered night racing in a completely remodeled facility, and that enabled us to introduce a whole new fan base to our track and to horse racing,” Cook said. “We're looking forward to building on that success this year.”

The Downs at Albuquerque Racetrack and Casino is located in the heart of Albuquerque at Expo New Mexico, the home of the New Mexico State Fair. For more information, visit www.abqdowns.com and click on the “Racetrack” link at the top of the homepage.

DOWNS AT ALBUQUERQUE 2017 STAKES SCHEDULE

(All purses noted list guaranteed value, unless otherwise noted.)

June 24: O.D. McDonald Handicap (R) (TB), New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds & older, 7 furlongs, $70,000.

July 1: Petticoat Stakes (TB), 3-year-old fillies, 5 1/2 furlongs, $50,000.

July 8: Budweiser Special Stakes (TB), 3-year-olds & older, 6 1/2 furlongs, $50,000.

July 15: Charles Taylor Derby (TB), 3-year-olds, 1 mile, $55,000.

July 22: Albuquerque Distaff Stakes (TB), 3-year-olds & older fillies and mares, 1 mile, $55,000..

July 23: Zoetis Albuquerque Distance Challenge Stakes (G3) (QH), 870 yards, $50,000-added.

July 29: Duke City Sprint Stakes (TB), 3-year-olds, 5 1/2 furlongs, $50,000.

August 5: Downs at Albuquerque Handicap (TB), 3-year-olds & older, 1 1/8 miles, $200,000.

August 12: Manzano Stakes (TB), 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs, $50,000.

August 26: Carlos Salazar Stakes (TB), New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds & older fillies and mares, 6 1/2 furlongs, $70,000.

August 27: First Moonflash Maturity (R) (QH), New Mexico-bred 4-year-olds & older, 440 yards, $150,000-estimated.

September 3: Casino at the Downs Derby (R) (TB), New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs, $135,000-estimated.

September 10: Balloon City Stakes (QH), 3-year-olds & older fillies and mares, 400 yards, $50,000.

September 16: Casey Darnell Handicap (R) (TB), New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds & older, 5 1/2 furlongs, $70,000.

September 23: La Fiesta Derby (QH), 3-year-olds, 440 yards, $200,000-estimated.

September 23: New Mexico State Fair Quarter Horse Futurity (RG3) (QH), New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds, 400 yards, $250,000-estimated.

September 24: La Fiesta Futurity (QH), 2-year-olds, 400 yards, $300,000-estimated.

September 24: New Mexico State Fair Derby (RG3) (QH), New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds, 400 yards, $200,000-estimated.

September 24; New Mexico State Fair Thoroughbred Futurity (R) (TB), New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs, $200,000-estimated.

September 24: Downs at Albuquerque Fall Championship (QH), 3-year-olds & older, 440 yards, $250,000.

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