New Mexico's Zia Park Set to Open Friday

Zia Park will kick off its inaugural 44-day season Friday with an 11-race card of Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing, with the opening day program highlighted by the $50,000 Premier Stakes for Thoroughbreds at six furlongs.

The mixed Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meet will continue through Dec. 4 with racing every Friday through Monday.

The opening-day card features full fields with an average of nine starters per race in both the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse races.

"The expectations all along was that there would be full fields," said Phil Zeigler, Zia Park marketing manager. "We expect the full fields to continue throughout the meet due to the high purses. There are 1,500 stalls on the backside and they are all spoken for."

Purses at Zia Park are fueled by the track's Black Gold Casino, which opened in November with 600 slot machines. The track has the option to operate up to 750 machines.

Zeigler said the inaugural meet would feature primarily Thoroughbred racing. "It's about a 60%-40% split between Thoroughbred and Quarter Horses, primarily because of the location of the track," he said.

Zia Park features a one-mile track with a seven-furlong Thoroughbred chute and a 550- yard Quarter Horse chute. The stretch of the track is 90 feet wide, while the turns and backstretch are 80 feet wide.

Ruidoso Downs owner R.D. Hubbard is the majority owner in the Zia Park partnership that also includes Ruidoso Downs president Bruce Rimbo; Ed Allred, owner of the Los Alamitos in California; and Paul Blanchard, president of the Downs at Albuquerque.