07/06/2011 4:04PM

Lone Star Park mapping out 2012, as are Sam Houston and Retama


The pared-down racing calendar that Texas tracks and horsemen agreed to for 2011 in the face of declining handle could be in place again for 2012. The state’s recent legislative session provided no alternative form of gaming to aid racing operations in Texas, and while date requests are not due to the Texas Racing Commission until July 15, early indicators are the tracks will seek meets similar to their 2011 seasons, some with a few more dates for Thoroughbreds.

Lone Star Park near Dallas is looking at requesting a 53-date Thoroughbred meet for next year, said Drew Shubeck, the track’s president. It would begin April 12 and run through about July 8, while providing one additional Thoroughbred date over the current meet that closes Sunday. The meet in progress is eight fewer dates than the track raced in 2010.

There has been some speculation Lone Star could change the makeup of its Thursday through Sunday racing schedule – perhaps running on Wednesday nights – but Shubeck said Lone Star has not made any commitments as to the days of the week it will race next year or the post times for the Thoroughbred meet. Global Gaming took over ownership of the track earlier in the season, and on Wednesday announced that a makeover of Lone Star’s simulcast pavilion will be the first of the “multimillion-dollar renovations” planned for Lone Star.

Shubeck said Lone Star is also looking at running 26 dates for Quarter Horses next year, beginning the third week in September.

Sam Houston is another Texas track that has had new ownership come on board this year, with Penn National Gaming’s request for 50-percent ownership of the Houston track approved by the Texas Racing Commission in April. Sam Houston ran a 27-date Thoroughbred meet earlier this year, from Jan. 21 to March 7. Plans for next year’s meet are not firmed up, but officials said they are considering asking for a similar schedule that will likely include a few additional dates of Thoroughbred racing in 2012.

“Racing will return in January here, and we’re certainly looking to do something very similar to what we did this year,” said Kyle Brown, a spokesperson for Sam Houston. “A lot of the changes we made we had a lot of success with.”

Sam Houston had typically raced a 60-date Thoroughbred meet from November to April, but moved to a January to March season this year and boosted its purses significantly. The meet was immediately followed by a 30-date Quarter Horse season that ran from March 11 to May 15.

Retama Park opened on July 1 for 45 days of continual racing that starts with a Quarter Horse meet, shifts to a mixed format, then closes with a 21-date Thoroughbred season to Oct. 15. Bryan Brown, the track’s chief executive officer, said Retama will probably seek the same kind of racing schedule for next year, but might ask for a week between the mixed meet and straight Thoroughbred season in order to better accommodate horsemen shipping in and out of the track at the end of the mixed meet. Brown also said Retama is actively seeking partners in the track, which is located near San Antonio.

The Texas Racing Commission plans to schedule a meeting or meetings for the public to comment on race dates for 2012.

Simulcast pavilion improvements

Lone Star announced on Wednesday that its simulcast pavilion will close for renovations on July 18, with simulcast operations to be moved to the grandstand. Lone Star will close out its Thoroughbred meet Sunday, and will not open for live racing until its Quarter Horse meet begins Sept. 16.

The renovations are scheduled to be completed in the fall. Lone Star will offer simulcasting on the first and second floor of its grandstand seven days a week.

Trainer Marshall Ezekiel dead at 72

Trainer Marshall “Rusty” Ezekiel, who was a longtime staple at Oaklawn Park, died July 1. He was 72. Services for Ezekiel were held Tuesday at the backstretch chapel at Oaklawn.

Ezekiel trained for more than four decades, with his last starter coming at Blue Ribbon Downs in 2008.

Gold N Glamore may travel to Indiana

Gold N Glamore, who is one of the top 3-year-olds at Lone Star, could make her next start in the $125,000 Indiana Downs Distaff on July 13, said her trainer, Francisco Bravo. The one-mile turf race is for 3-year-old fillies. Bravo said the other option for Gold N Glamore remains the Grade 2, $150,000 Lake George at Saratoga on July 27.

◗ Lil Cherokee, the winner of the colts and geldings division of the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity who was scratched from last weekend’s Grade 3, $100,000 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs, could make his next start at Prairie Meadows, said his trainer, Bret Calhoun. He said the horse is a candidate for the $75,000 Prairie Gold Juvenile on July 16.