Funds to be Diverted to Texas Breed Associations

Stakes purses for Texas-breds should increase measurably beginning in 2001 given the Texas Racing Commission's approval of a rule that diverts a portion of racetracks' export simulcasting fees back to the state breed associations.

The Texas rules of racing contain a provision that allocates 10% of export simulcasting fees generated at the state's three Class I tracks -- Lone Star Park, Retama Park, and Sam Houston Race Park -- to the Texas Thoroughbred Association and Texas Quarter Horse Association. That revenue is intended to help fund restricted races in Texas and other signature race days, such as Texas Champions Day.

In 1996, with Retama and Sam Houston in the throes of bankruptcy and Lone Star not yet open, the breed associations waived their right to the money "to help get the tracks healthy," TTA executive director David Hooper said. That agreement was to have run through Dec. 31, 2000, at which time the simulcast fees were to revert back to the TTA and AQHA.

The new rule, approved unanimously during a racing commission meeting in Austin Wednesday, gives the tracks the ability to "recommend the percentages" by which purse revenues from simulcasting will be split among the breed groups. That rule allows the tracks to negotiate with the breed associations on the percentage of money they will derive from export simulcasting fees.

Lone Star general manager Steve Sexton told the commission the three tracks and the TTA have reached an agreement in principle that would pay the TTA 1% of the gross fees for administration and allocate the equivalent of 5.85% of the money each year to Texas-bred stakes and signature race days. That agreement, Sexton said, was expected to be signed by Friday.

Rob Werstler, director of racing for the AQHA, told the commission he had not seen the agreement between the tracks and TTA and, therefore, his organization had not yet approved it.

According to TRC records, export simulcasting fees collected by the three Class I totaled more than $3.6 million since the agreement went into effect in 1997.

In other news, a proposed rule that would have prohibited 2-year-olds of any breed from racing in Texas before they turn 24 months of age wasn't approved. The rule, which was intended to prevent catastrophic injuries in juveniles, was strongly opposed by Quarter Horse constituents -- and to a lesser extent Thoroughbred interests -- who thought the rule was not substantiated by existing scientific proof.

In addition, the commission extended the deadline by which Manor Downs near Austin is to have its racetrack upgraded to accommodate Thoroughbred racing. The original deadline, which was Nov. 15, was extended to Dec. 12.

If Manor Downs is not completed to a level satisfactory to commission staff, the track would lose its ability to race live and conduct simulcasting in 2001.