Page 30 - NM Winter 2023
P. 30

                 Sapello was nestled in the midst of a beautiful valley blessed with all kinds of wildlife and a forest filled with ponderosa pine trees.
It was here that as youngsters Miguel and Antonio would spend days running through the woods hunting squirrels and rabbit with their single-shot .22 caliber rifles. And it was in Sapello that the kids joined the local 4-H Club, took riding lessons, and embraced the spirit of competition.
“The kids did a lot of riding and 4-H projects,” says Anna. “They learned to grade animals and did leather work. It was a very good time. We were learning everything for the first time.”
Riding lessons for Anna and the boys were part of the package of life on the ranch.
“She’s the one that got us riding lessons,” says Miguel of his mother. “She got us involved in rodeos and horse shows.”
Anna, who had no background whatsoever with horses, says a neighbor and longtime friend, Edrie Romans, taught her to ride both English and Western style.
His dad says Miguel was five years old the first time he got on a horse and by the time he was eight, Miguel was competing in marathon races (25-to-30 miles) a couple of times a year against older riders.
Eventually, inevitably, the family made the transition from pleasure horses to faster ones. The tipping point apparently was a trip to Illinois in the mid ‘70s.
“I was about 10 years old and learning how to jump horses,” said Miguel. “We went to Illinois one summer to find me a horse. We went to a farm that had quarter horses and my dad fell in love with a stallion there. We ended up getting the stallion and mares.”
The Quarter Horse stallion was named Wild Return and the mares were breeding stock fillies.
“I wasn’t interested in trying to make money by standing (Wild Return),” says Tino. “I was mostly interested in breeding my own mares. I was always interested in breeding. So is Miguel.”
That was the start of the Gallegos’ venture into New Mexico horse racing. Initially their horses ran under Tino’s name, and their stable was named Rancho de Caballos. Anxious to be relevant players in their new venture, the family consumed as much information as they could get on breeding and bloodlines.
This was long before the internet and search engines like Google came into existence. So Tino and Anna would read horse racing catalogs, magazines and other publications dedicated to the histories of stallions and mares. They’d often trace a horse’s lineage back five generations.
“They had index books to look up any horse,” says Miguel. “They spent hours and hours and days going through that stuff. That’s what they liked to do every morning.”
Researching pedigrees to this day remains a major part of Del Norte Racing. But the doctor
now has the luxury of modern technology and the instant information that comes with it.
“I can look up any pedigree and tell you within minutes everything about that family,” says Dr. Gallegos, who founded Del Norte Racing about 22 years ago.
Rancho de Caballos started with
quarter horses and later made the change to thoroughbreds. One of their first winners was the Quarter Horse Sapello Hit Man. Another Quarter Horse, Sapello Skip, earned $99,267 from 81 starts. He won six races, ran second 15 times and third 20 times. His specialty was going 870.
Sapello Skip was from the Thoroughbred mare Eda Marie by the Quarter Horse Dooley Authorized. It was Eda Marie who probably merits much of the credit for the doctor getting “hooked” on horse racing for good.
He says he was about three years into his medical practice when Eda Marie came into his life.
“My dad found her in New York,” recalls Miguel. “They wanted $9,000 for her. Then we’d have to ship her (to New Mexico), so it was probably going to be $11,000 by the time we got her here.”
“I had no horses, and my dad wants to start doing this. So, I said, OK, we’ll try it a little bit.”
Lady Luck would soon join this trifecta of Miguel, Tino and Eda Marie.
As the story goes, Miguel and Tino decide to drive to Sunland Park to watch some racing.
“I haven’t been to the races for a long
time. I’d been gone for 16 years,” said Miguel. “We only catch the last two races that day.
I’m there and I’m betting and I’m looking
more at pedigree than I’m looking at (past performances). I played a trifecta and I hit it for something like $700. I take some of that money
and play a superfecta on the last race. It hits for $4,500. Now, I’ve just made over $5,000 on two races. All of a sudden, I’m hooked again.”
Miguel decided to press his winning streak a little further. He called up the owners of Eda Marie and offered them $5,000 for the mare. They said yes.
Eda Marie is shipped to Sunland Park. Miguel says his dad found her through Bloodhorse Magazine so it was a sight unseen purchase.
“We go back to Sunland to see what she looked like,” recalls Miguel. “We’re looking in the field and there’s a bunch of mares out there. Dad says, ‘It’s that one.’ I said, that’s nice, she’s big and good looking. He says, ‘no, not her, that other one.’ She’s this little funny looking mare. I’m thinking, Oh, my God, what did we just buy. We got the runt of the litter.’’
More like an alpha female. Besides Sapello Skip, Eda Marie also produced Bravo Sapello, who as a 2-year-old won the George Maloof Futurity at the New Mexico State Fair in 2007. His career earnings totaled just over $70,000. Bravo Sapello was by Valet Man, who the doctor purchased along with the mare Sea Sis.
The breeding of Sea Sis to Valet Man produced La Sorpresa, a multiple stakes winning mare who earned more than $419,000 and in 2011 was the New Mexico Horse Breeders Association’s older Thoroughbred mare of the year.
La Sorpresa twice won the Sydney Valenti Handicap at Sunland and the Russell and Helen Foutz Distaff Handicap at SunRay Park. Racing from 2007 to 2011, she won eight times, finished second six times and third twice from 28 starts.
Horse breeders/owners every year have to decide which yearlings to sell and which to keep. It’s a game of chance in a game (horse racing) that’s always a gamble.
28 New Mexico Horse Breeder
La Sorpresa
  Coady Photography

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