by Shelby Downs
The Texas Racing Commission has awarded 162 Thoroughbred racing dates for 2009, the same number granted for 2008.
Sam Houston Race Park will host Thoroughbreds at both the beginning and the end of the year, with 47 days from Jan. 1-April 4, and for 18 days from Nov. 27-Dec. 31. Thoroughbreds shift to the Dallas area for the spring and summer meet at Lone Star Park, which will offer 65 dates from April 9-July 26. Retama Park near San Antonio will conduct a 32-day meet from Aug. 28-Nov. 7.
Thoroughbreds also have a chance to compete during the mixed meets at Manor Downs and the Gillespie County Fair. Manor Downs, located near Austin, will run 18 days from Feb. 21-April 19, while the Gillespie County Fair meet in Fredericksburg will comprise four weekends in July and August for a total of eight dates.
The biggest change to the Texas racing calendar affects Quarter Horses. Retama transferred its Quarter Horse dates to Sam Houston to create one 54-day meet at the Houston track from May 1-Sept. 29.
“The agreement is good for horsemen, good for the racing industry, and is for one season,” Retama chief executive officer Bryan Brown said. “After 2009, we will examine results and consider resuming live Quarter Horse racing at Retama Park in 2010.”
Lone Star Park will host its traditional fall Quarter Horse dates from Sept. 25-Nov. 28.
Two of the newly licensed Class 2 tracks in South Texas, Laredo Downs and Valle de los Tesoros, applied for six dates each in December 2009, though construction has not begun on either track. Greg LaMantia, a managing partner in both tracks, testified at the meeting about a potential relocation of the Laredo Downs license to Fort Worth, which would mean the dates would likely not be run.
The LaMantias are also negotiating with Hidalgo County in regards to a conflict over the site for Valle de los Tesoros and a proposed toll road.