The racing community across the United States and around the world are familiar with horseracing in New Mexico. Although many recognize the horse as an iconic American animal, especially in the Western States, there are probably few who know how long horseracing has been a part of our nation's history. Horsemen in other jurisdictions may boast of the port of Kings’ having a long tradition in their States. However, the first recorded horserace in what is now the United States, took place in New Mexico ! In 1541, the Spanish explorer Coronado challenged one of his officers to a match race while they were camped near Bernalillo.
The Spanish brought not only horses, but also horseracing to what is now the United States. Decades before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, Don Juan de Onate crossed into present day New Mexico with Spanish colonists who were not just settlers but caballeros, or “horsemen”. Native American petroglyphs record early encounters with these new arrivals travelling on horseback. Horseracing became a tradition in the Southwest as it later did in Eastern states. The tradition, which began in The Land of Enchantment, continues today at racetracks in New Mexico and many other States across the nation.
With over 300 days of sunshine annually, the weather for racing in New Mexico is spectacular and today, some of the fastest horses in the world are bred and compete for top purse money. The Grade III Sunland Derby is the only “Graded” thoroughbred stakes race in New Mexico and with a $700,000 total purse, is a point qualifier for the Kentucky Derby. Run over 440 yards every Labor Day, The All American Quarter Horse Futurity, gained its lofty status through unique cooperation between the track and horsemen and now boasts a $3,000,000 purse; the richest race for a two-year old of any breed in North America!. These facts and much more, make New Mexico an amazing place for top level horseracing and a great place to be a horseman.