Texas Changes Rules to Accommodate Breeders' Cup

by Raymond Whelan

The Texas Racing Commission has ruled horses with common ownership and trainers can run as separate betting interests during the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park.

During its Feb. 5 meeting, the commission granted the track a waiver from the rule that requires a coupling of two horses as a single betting interest if an individual or entity owns them in whole or in part, or if a trainer owns an interest in both horses.

Lone Star vice president and general manager Jeffrey Greco said the track requested the waiver to give the public more betting opportunities during the Breeders' Cup. Similar policies have been enacted in other host states.

"The Breeders' Cup has a history of not running coupled entries, and obviously, horses that are competing in races of that magnitude are all running to win," Greco said.

Just for the Breeders' Cup, the commission also approved a request from Lone Star to waive the rule that requires all mounts to show identification tattoos. The move was made to accommodate any European entries that compete in the Breeders' Cup and are not required to have tattoos in their respective countries.

"All original foal papers will be in the race office prior to race day, and The Jockey Club Registrar will be on the grounds to help in proper identification of any non-tattooed horses," Greco said.

In another matter, the commission approved a request from Sam Houston Race Park to drop March 18, March 25, April 1, and April 8 from its current Thoroughbred meet, which began Oct. 23 and will continue through April 10. The schedule change will help the track reduce possible overpayment of purses that has resulted from lower-than expected on-track and off-site handle, said Ann McGovern, vice president of operations at Sam Houston.

"We will probably still end up making a small overpayment of purses by the end of the meet," McGovern said. "But if we did not reduce race days, we would have to make a larger overpayment that would not have been manageable."

Also during the meeting, the commission:

-- Approved a request from Magna Entertainment Corp. to appoint Donald Amos as the director and executive vice president and chief operating officer of MEC Texas Racing pending a satisfactory background check by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

-- Approved a concession agreement between the Retama Development Corp. and the Breckenridge Entertainment Corp., and granted a request from Joe Strauss Jr. to transfer his ownership interest in Retama Partners Ltd. to a family trust.

Meanwhile, a management team from Retama--the Laredo Racing Partnership--submitted an application to the racing commission Jan. 29 for a license to operate a Class 2 racetrack in Laredo. The Retama group would compete against another team from Sam Houston that last October applied for a license to build a track in Laredo.

Officials for both groups said proposals must be approved by the commission and the state administrative court before contractors can begin work on the track, which they expect could start during 2005.