But he could be faster, say the racing breeders, who have worked at blending more Thoroughbred blood into the breed. Thus of the 140 original candidates for the All American, about half had either a Thoroughbred sire or dam. Galobar is a good example. Her sire was Three Bars, a well-known Thoroughbred stud, and her maternal grandsire was a Thoroughbred.
The quarter horse has a rich American history which began when the basic stock was brought to this country by the Spaniards in the 16th century. Into the mixture later went the blood of Thoroughbreds imported from England by the Virginia colonists. By pre-Civil War days such cattle barons as Captain Richard King, the founder of Texas' King Ranch, had found the stock ideal for work on the giant unfenced ranges. The duties of the quarter horse as a cow pony have changed little since.
As the racing of quarter horses grew in popularity throughout the Southwest the contests themselves moved off the main streets of cow towns to formal tracks, the most important of which is now Ruidoso Downs. Started 13 years ago, the track is actually an accident of gambling laws, thermal laws and geography.
The thermal laws are important because mile-high Ruidoso Downs has cool temperatures and showers, though it is only a few miles from some of the nation's bleakest badlands. This means that race fans are comfortable while enjoying something else that nearby Texas and Oklahoma do not have—the pari-mutuel machine. It is no accident that 70% of the sporting gentry at Ruidoso come from those two states, with an uncommon percentage of Cadillacs and Continentals to be seen on the parking lot.
The gambling urge insured the survival of Ruidoso, but it was still a run-down country fair of a track until Gene Hensley arrived as director of racing seven years ago. Now a modern grandstand seats 6,000, film patrols follow every race on the three-day-a-week card, increased purses have brought in enough horses for 12 races a day (all short), and the mutuel handle reaches a quarter of a million dollars on good days. The track is so successful, considering it has to draw its fans from as far as Dallas, 600 miles away, that a neighboring town has proudly changed its name from Greentree to Ruidoso Downs.
But the biggest move of Promoter Hensley was starting the All American Futurity. He sold horse owners on the race, and it was from the owners' nominating and starting fees that the $130,000 purse came. One owner posted a late-filing fee of $6,500 this summer to make his horse eligible.
The rush for the big quarter horse racing money looks infectious, with one owner reportedly refusing to sell a top horse for $75,000 and enough entries to insure that next year's big race at Ruidoso Downs will be as rich as this year's. It was Gene Hensley who figured the horsemen's response just right. He didn't call last week's race just the All American Futurity; he called it the First Annual Running of the All American Futurity.