Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Racing commission takes no action on license


January 2, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico Racing Commission held a special meeting Friday to discuss the state’s potential sixth racetrack license, but did not move any closer to issuing that license.

“At this point in time, we’re basically in the same spot as we were previously,” said Izzy Trejo, the commission’s executive director.

Friday’s meeting lasted about an hour and 45 minutes; almost all of it in closed session.

None of the five groups vying to bring a racetrack to Clovis, Tucumcari or Lordsburg was awarded the license Friday, though Trejo said the commission again stated on the record the board is committed to awarding a sixth license.

The commission previously passed a resolution to that effect Dec. 21. On Dec. 6 it tabled the awarding of a license until a lawsuit introduced by one of the applicant groups is resolved.

Hidalgo Downs LLC and others associated with the Lordsburg proposal took issue with the fairness of a feasibility study evaluating each application, filing a “petition for injunctive relief” Nov. 28.

Trejo said the commission will wait to see how that litigation plays out, with no timeline in place.

“Just at the mercy of the court’s schedule; that will dictate everything,” he said.

Warren Frost, a principal of Coronado Partners LLC, the group vying to bring a racetrack to Tucumcari, compared the process to the classic football gag from the “Peanuts” comic strip.

“I feel like Charlie Brown when they keep pulling the football in front of us,” Frost said.

Despite initially wanting to issue a license before the new year, Trejo said the board does not have another meeting scheduled, bringing into question governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham’s plans for the commission once she takes office in the new year.

“Now the question is whether or not the new governor is going to allow these guys to make the decision or if she’s going to replace them and we’re back to square one. And that seems to be a question nobody knows the answer to,” Frost said.

So far, Lujan Grisham has remained mum on her plans for the commission.

“The governor-elect has been consistent over the course of the transition that while the Racing Commission and the racetrack license process playing out there are important items, they are items she will address in full once she has the authority to address them in January. It would be premature for her to weigh in before that,” Tripp Stelnicki, the governor-elect’s communications director, wrote in a message to The News.

Ernie Kos, executive director of the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce, told The News that she was disappointed to have a third straight racing commission meeting come and go with no announcement of a license, but she’s hopeful it won’t be long until the license is awarded.

“I trust that the New Mexico Racing Commission will make the best decision for New Mexico as soon as they possibly can and I’m very hopeful our Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham will work with the existing commission to finalize this process,” Kos said.

Trejo said he will have to wait and see what the governor-elect decides, just like everyone else.

“No new commissioners have been assigned as of today that I have knowledge of, so it’s really difficult for me to see the future to answer that question,” he said.

With so many twists and turns already taking place, Frost said he does not have a good read on how or when the situation will be resolved.

“I have no earthly idea,” Frost said. “Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it goes a different direction. It’s quite the odyssey.”

Kos compared her outlook on the licensing process to a horserace.

“What I have learned is that it is not always the fastest horse in the race that is going to win, it is the horse that stays strong until the finish line with confidence that the winner’s circle is in sight. We are going to do just that no matter how much longer this race is,” she said.


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