Page 31 - NM Winter 2023
P. 31

                  Patricia Herrera
“The big heart is what you want to breed for. To me, speed comes second.” – Miguel Gallegos
 “I’ve never been able to pick which one is going to be the best one,” says Dr. Gallegos. With La Sorpresa, he got a second and third chance to avoid making a huge mistake.
Gallegos took the, at that time, unnamed yearling filly to a sale in southern New Mexico with the intention of selling her. He figured that if the filly turned out to be a good runner, it would improve the profile of his stable and other buyers would come calling.
“She was big, beautiful and well bred,” says the doctor. “But all I got was a bid for $1,500.”
Miguel took the filly back home and was open to the idea of selling her for $5,000.
“My dad told me, `You’re crazy. Why are you selling that filly?’ I said, I’m trying to get people involved in my stock. He said, `Yeah, but don’t give her away.’’’
In the end, no one that looked at the filly was willing to pay $5,000 and the doctor kept her. La Sorpresa would go on to earn nearly half a million dollars and live up to her name. La Sorpresa in Spanish means surprise.
“The reason I named her that is because I thought, OK, I’m going to surprise all of you,” said Dr. Gallegos.
Miguel says horse buyers should spend more time looking at a horse’s pedigree. Too often, he says, buyers don’t get beyond the stallion.
“They think, who’s the stallion? Oh
yeah, I’m buying that one. They don’t study the pedigree line enough. Look at what the stallion’s about, what the mare’s about. How successful they were, at what distances. How much class is involved in the family. If they did that, they’d be more successful than just going and buying every baby from a certain stallion.”
“The big heart is what you want to breed for,” says the doctor. “To me, speed comes second. Everyone breeds for speed; I breed for heart.”
And yet, he concedes that picking the good
surgery center, Gallegos purchased 20 acres in Albuquerque’s South Valley and started breeding mares.
“I wasn’t necessarily going to get into race horses,” says Dr. Gallegos. “My original plan was to have a small barn, maybe five mares and a stallion. I was going to build my house there and that was it. I thought at the time it (horse racing) was a bad deal. People in it were going broke. But I always overdo it. The ranch kept growing, I never built the house, and we outgrew that ranch real quick.”
Exploring, experimenting, and not settling for the status quo apparently has always been part of the doctor’s DNA.
Today, one of the big issues on his radar is the status and future of horse racing in New Mexico. This past summer, Dr. Gallegos lost a well-
bred, promising yearling filly who was bitten by a rattler and died about nine days later.
He says the real threat to horse racing in the state are not predators like rattlesnakes and the occasional mountain lion, but rather forces within the industry itself.
He says there are abundant red flags and every aspect of the industry--owners, breeders, race track owners and the State Racing Commission-- have to work together to solve the problems.
The issues from his perspective are wide ranging. They include Unsafe racing surfaces and inadequate barns. A shortage of new foals that in turn lead to short fields. An ongoing loss of racing days and the need for a sixth racing license to be approved and issued. Refusal by breeders and owners to pursue innovative methods to enhance and expand the New Mexico breed program. Too much emphasis on racing 2-year-olds because of the purse money at stake and a lack of distance races of a mile and up for older horses.
Gallegos is especially angry by the reduction in race days and what he sees as a
started. That wasn’t the essence or the spirit of how this was supposed to be. It was if you were a struggling racetrack, you got a casino to help, not the other way around.”
Gallegos served on the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Horse Breeders Association from 2017 to 2020. During his tenure, he proposed making changes to the rules of what constitutes a New Mexico bred horse.
“My idea was to let people go and buy a mare in foal in Kentucky and bring it back to New Mexico. Allow the foal to be a New Mexico bred with all the perks. The mare would have to be rebred to a New Mexico stallion. It would be that simple. Now, if the mare goes back to Kentucky, you can’t do it twice. The mare has to stay in New Mexico.”
Gallegos says his proposal was rejected by owners and breeders who said it went against the established norm.
“Everybody was upset, they said bad idea. It goes against the original plan. I know it goes against the original plan, but if we stick with the current plan, the numbers (of race horses) are going to continue to decrease because we don’t have enough mares.”
Commitment and compromise, says Gallegos, are the lifelines that will save horse racing.
“It will take commitment on all sides for this to continue. Everybody has to change their ways. The owners have to stop trying to make all their money with 2 year olds. The breeders have to consider bringing in mares from outside and the track owners have to expand racing dates and take better care of their facilities.”
Still, his passion for racing, dinged and dented at times, remains intact.
“I don’t make money in racing, but I’m committed to it because I like it,” he says while seated at the kitchen table in his Contreras
 ones is an imperfect science.
“You go to a sale, and they all look pretty,”
he said. “And just because their legs aren’t totally straight doesn’t mean they won’t run well.”
The lineup of horses that over the years have been successful runners for Del Norte Racing and their career earnings also includes Sea Emperor ($214,452), with 11 wins from 32 starts; Walker Stalker ($123,720) with three wins, two seconds and two thirds from eight starts and Chary Ride, ($105,539).
Horse racing on such a large scale was not initially in the doctor’s plans when he finished medical school. Not long after opening his
greater emphasis by racetrack management on promoting the casino end of the business over horse racing.
“They have these massive purses but then you only get one shot at it because there aren’t enough races,” he said. “Everyone is excited about the purses but it’s not real. That’s just a matter of them repackaging the product.”
He is outspoken on what has become a widespread issue within the state’s racing community. Who should come first, the racetrack or the casino?
“It’s all about the bottom line and I get it,” he said. “But that’s not how this thing (racinos)
home. “I’d rather hire people to do something on the farm, get us to the track, win a few races and have a good time. Keep this thing going. That’s not a good business model and I’ve lost
a lot of money doing that. But that’s who I am.”
In horse racing, the term “outran his odds” refers to a winning horse who ran better than what the oddsmakers predicted.
The good doctor has been beating the odds all his life. Certainly, he has delivered in emphatic and impressive style on what he told that skeptical bank official some 25 years ago.
“I’m going to make it because I’ve always made it.”
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