by Raymond Whelan
It has been almost 10 years since live racing was held at Bandera Downs, but the racetrack has acquired new owners.
A partnership named Heart of Texas Racing recently closed on an agreement to buy the facility for $1.2-million from the Bandera Independent School District. After the ink was dry, Heart of Texas partners James Dunnagan and Chris Elliott promptly indicated they would maintain the facility primarily as a training center.
Bandera Downs is located on more than 120 acres in Bandera, Texas, the self-described "Cowboy Capital of the World." The track is situated about 30 miles from Retama Park, near San Antonio, which opened for live Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing at about the same time Bandera Downs shut down in 1995.
Though much of its racing surface is covered by brush and weeds and "needs a lot of work before you could run horses on it," Bandera Downs still has stall space for up to 400 horses, and its grandstand is in "pretty good shape," Elliott told the Texas Horsemen's Partnership.
Dunnagan already manages a training facility at Squaw Creek Downs, which is the old Trinity Meadows racetrack in Willow Park, near Ft. Worth. Bandera Downs and Trinity Meadows were the tracks that brought pari-mutuel racing back to Texas in the 1980s.