Horse owners shut out of fairgrounds Friday

Posted at: 11/15/2012 6:45 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4

For decades, hundreds of horse owners have housed and trained their animals at the fairgrounds during the off-season. But now, those same people who pay to be there are losing access to the track.

Friday is the last official day for training on the track. Basically it all comes down to money.

The three groups involved are trying to figure out how much horse owners should pay to use the facilities.

"For them not to leave a state-owned facility to help our people and our industry out, to me seems, to be totally ridiculous," Tom Pierce, a horse owner, said.

Pierce is one of hundreds who boards his horses at the fairgrounds and uses the track to train them.

The current price is $5 a day.

Downs General Manager Darren White said that does not even come close to how much it costs to maintain the track and stalls, more than $30,000 a month.

"In southern New Mexico they have several different options they can go to, in northern New Mexico the only track you can train your horses at year round is here in Albuquerque," Pierce said.

Friday, after training, the track will be sealed and closed, at least temporarily until the New Mexico Horsemen's Association can reach an agreement with the Downs of Albuquerque as well as Expo New Mexico about how much horse owners have to pay.

Jack McGrail is the executive director from the NM Horsemen's Association.

"We do pay stall rent, it's not like we're looking for some gift or benevolence, but those numbers we haven't been able to agree on what is an appropriate amount per stall per day," McGrail said.

Owners worry how long the negotiation process could take.

"If we can't track, what's the use of keeping horses, we'll just have to send em to the slaughter house," Rey Marquez, a horse owner, said. "You're gonna cost 200 or 300 jobs, you're gonna cost - slow the breeding industry down, the owners industry," Kevin Crow, another horse owner, said.

McGrail said he is hopeful the three parties will be able to work something out, adding, it is just a matter of getting everyone to sit down together to do so.

The track will be sealed off until that happens.

"With the stalls there and the racetrack just sitting there, it would be a win-win situation for everyone if they'd go ahead and leave it open," Pierce said.