Horse Racing on the Horizon for Raton

La Mesa Park was the first racetrack to be built in the state of New Mexico. It opened its doors to horse racing in Raton in 1946. Sadly, due to a dramatic slump in the horse racing industry, the racetrack was closed in 1992. Finally, on Monday, Horse Racing at Raton received the news that they had been hoping for, that their application for the last racing license in New Mexico had been approved. This decision, taken by the New Mexico Racing Commission, has brought the excitement of horse racing back to Raton.

Over the last few years, the state of New Mexico has supported the operation of casinos and slot machines at racetracks and this in turn has promoted horse racing and boosted the industry financially. The construction of the new racetrack at Raton is set to be built on a two hundred and twenty-five acre site just outside of Raton, and will be a $50 million project. Developer, Michael Moldenhauer expressed his excitement and enthusiasm at the return of racing to Raton, as it is where New Mexico racing begun.

The development of the racetrack and its casino is expected to be completed by 2010 and will feature a wide range of facilities. Most importantly, the oval track itself will have a seven furlong chute and be one mile in length. A quarter horse track will also be constructed and the horse stalls will be able to accommodate one thousand five hundred horses. In total, the facility will cover a fifty-three square foot area and it is hoped that the casino will be operational by next year. With approximately sixty racing days annually, the racetrack and casino will also provide permanent job opportunities. Racing events will carry competitive purses and hopefully lure quality horses to race days.

After the decision was made, the commission members advised that their decision was made with horse racing in mind and what would be best for the industry. Horse Racing at Raton was bidding against the Pueblo of Pojoaque Development (Santa Fe) and Coronado Park Partners (Tucumcari). Support given in letters to the commission from the already established racinos in the state and the fact that Raton will be attracting visitors from various destinations, such as Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas, lent weight to the Raton application. Its history with horse racing was also taken into account, and all round, it was felt that Raton would best serve the industry.

Every member of the Raton community lent their support, and the Mayor of Raton, Joe Apache, was overjoyed. He was quoted saying: “It means a new beginning. I can’t wait to see our town come alive again. When we lost the mine it was a big load to carry, but we had to go on. Now, this opens a whole new aspect. There are motels to build, restaurants to build and jobs, most importantly.”