by Shelby Downs
Sam Houston Race Park canceled its 2008-09 meet and transferred 43 of its originally scheduled 65 days to Retama Park, a move approved by the Texas Racing Commission during a special meeting Oct. 28.
The meeting took place at the Houston track and included a survey of the damage the facility sustained during Hurricane Ike that has left it unable to host the upcoming meet.
Hurricane Ike swept through the Texas Gulf Coast Sept. 13 and caused Sam Houston to cancel the final two days of its Quarter Horse meet and suspend simulcast operations for eight days. The storm caused sufficient wind and water damage to the grandstand roof, toteboard, and barn area.
Sam Houston officials first discussed the extent of the damage and its potential impact on the upcoming meet to the TRC during its regularly scheduled meeting Oct. 8.
“I think there is a lot of misinformation out there about us today,” Sam Houston chief operating officer Andrea Young said. “Since day one, I’ve opened our doors to anyone wanting to see the damage so people understand just how difficult this situation is.”
Sam Houston management has assembled a team to oversee the reconstruction process. Property loss specialist Chris Gauge of BMS CAT, a firm that previously worked on rebuilding Calder Race Course and Fair Grounds after hurricanes, estimated the project could be completed by April 1.
Representatives from Retama Park, Lone Star Park, Sam Houston, and the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership reached an agreement to move 43 days and about $3.8 million in purse money to Retama Park. The San Antonio track’s current Thoroughbred meet began Aug. 28 and was originally scheduled to end Nov. 15, but will now extend through Feb. 28.
Because Sam Houston was originally scheduled to run Nov. 28 through April 5 for a total of 65 days, 22 days will be lost.
“It’s important for us to step up to the plate and offer the dates,” said Retama Park COO Bryan Brown, who also announced the track will be matching Sam Houston’s proposed purse structure and offering an abbreviated stakes schedule. “A lot of the difficulty we face in looking at those dates has to do with the economy. There is lots of uncertainty coming up for horsemen, but ideally Retama would like to run as many races as possible.”
The transfer of dates to Retama Park will displace horsemen of both breeds who typically use the track as a winter training center. A meeting has been scheduled between officials with the Texas tracks and the horsemen’s and breed organizations to discuss alternatives for winter training.