An elephant in the winner’s circle

June 13th, 2013

One Quick Eagle, fastest qualifier for the Ruidoso Futurity. Gay Harris photo

Instead of the winning horse, there was an elephant in the winner’s circle for the $700,000 G1 Ruidoso Futurity at Ruidoso Downs on Sunday, June 9.

Obviously in distress, Cartel Quick was vanned off the track before the ceremony, where owner Sergio Enriquez, trainer Alonso Orozco, and jockey Tanner Thedford were congratulated for the win.

The official press release from Ruidoso Downs noted that Cartel Quick “did not make it back to the winner’s circle due to stress and exhaustion.” On June 10, the day after the race, he was euthanized due to kidney failure. The cause of death is pending results of an autopsy.

Following revelation that eight winners of 25 trials for the 2012 Ruidoso Futurity tested positive for the powerful painkiller dermorphin, as well as a well-timed series in the New York Times about illegal drug use on tracks, including Ruidoso Downs, the heat has been on the racing industry for reform.

On April 2, 2013, legislation that will more than double funds available to the State Racing Commission for drug-testing was signed into law by New Mexico governor Susana Martinez. The same day she also signed a law to allow the commission to impose penalties of up to $100,000, or the amount of a horse’s winnings if that is greater (Cartel Quick’s winnings in the Ruidoso Futurity were $315,000) for violation of the rule against the use of illegal drugs. Current penalties are limited to $10,000 for each violation. The new laws go into effect in 2014.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., announced in May that he will sponsor a bill giving authority to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to police all race tracks with simulcast wagering. Udall is being backed by Republican senators Ed Whitfield of Kentucky and Joe Pitts pf Pennsylvania.

“This is the organization that cleaned up bicycle racing with Lance Armstrong and the Olympics,” Udall said. “Racing groups have promised drug reform for decades, but this bill would bring in real standards and enforcement from an organization with a proven record for cleaning up sports.”

The idea of federal legislation does not sit well with many in the racing industry. While it remains to be seen whether the newly created state bills will make a difference with New Mexico racing, the chance of Udall’s proposal becoming law is deemed a longshot.

In the meantime, what will Cartel Quick’s autopsy results reveal about his death? – Anyone taking bets?

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/04/30/us/breakdown-horses-series.html?_r=0