Texas Commission Approves Dates After Agreement Between Sam Houston, Retama

By Raymond V. Whelan
The Texas Racing Commission has approved the live racing calendar for all Texas racetracks in 2003.

The action took place during a meeting on Aug. 14 in Austin, Texas. Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie, near Dallas, will have a 70-day Thoroughbred meet next year from Thursday, April 3 through Sunday, July 13.

The Thoroughbred meet at Retama Park in Selma, near San Antonio, Texas, will last 51 days, from Friday, Aug. 1 through Saturday, Oct. 25. There will be an 84-day Thoroughbred meet at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, from Thursday, Jan. 2 through Sunday, March 30 and from Friday, Oct. 25 to Wednesday, Dec. 31.

"They did the right, fair thing for everybody," said Retama chief executive officer Bryan P. Brown, referring to the TRC. "It's real difficult to have to consider so many different organizations and tracks when granting race dates, and they did a great job, and we're certainly happy with what they did."

Prior to TRC approval of the calendar, Brown and Sam Houston Race Park senior vice president and general manager Robert L. Bork agreed during a private discussion to hold concurrent dates for live racing on Oct. 25 and Oct. 26 next year. Both officials decided that will allow SHRP and Retama a chance to attract simulcast bettors and spectators for live racing during the World Thoroughbred Championships (Breeders' Cup) scheduled for Oct. 25, 2003. SHRP held live racing on Breeders Cup Day from 1998 to 2000. Retama held live racing on Breeders Cup Day in 1997 and 2001 and the track plans to have live racing on Breeders Cup Day in 2002.

"We are not opposed to working out something for the year 2004 and beyond," Brown said.

The TRC also approved an eight-day Thoroughbred for Manor Downs from Saturday, April 19 to Sunday, May 11, 2003. The track based in Manor, near Austin, Texas, will enter its second year of operation next year.

"We'll be able to offer horsemen across the state of Texas real opportunities for Thoroughbred racing in our market area," said Manor Downs president Howard Phillips. "The horsemen are anxious to be there. We've heard time and again they are happy with our facility, particularly the racing surface, the purse structure, and they want a chance to build on that."

Also during its Aug. 14 meeting, TRC officials made no motion to grant the El Primero Fair Association (backed by Cash, Marilyn and Keith Asmussen and the Laredo National Bank) a license to operate a Class 3 track for horse racing near Laredo, Texas. The commission noted the association already has about $8.8 million worth of physical plant already in place at the racetrack. However, Commissioners Colleen McHugh and Mike Rutherford hinted approval will be more forthcoming once the association resolves legal issues with the Internal Revenue Service.