09/03/2010 12:24PM

New Sam Houston plan would not transfer purse money to Lone Star


Sam Houston Race Park has changed direction on its 2011 Thoroughbred racing dates and proposed a 27-card Thoroughbred meet to horsemen. The new dates will be discussed at a meeting between horsemen’s repesentatives and state track officials in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday.

Sam Houston last month asked the Texas Racing Commission to drop its upcoming winter-spring Thoroughbred meet, and planned to transfer more than $4 million from its Thoroughbred purse account to Lone Star Park, which would have run a 60-day season with purses of $230,000 a day. Essentially, Thoroughbred racing in Texas would have been consolidated at Lone Star.

Betting handle in Texas has been declining and the one-year plan was intended to increase average daily Thoroughbred purses to a level more competitive with those of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, all of which have alternative forms of gambling to supplement their purses.

If Sam Houston’s new dates are approved, the track would not transfer any purse money to Lone Star and its Jan. 21 to March 19 Thoroughbred meet would offer purses of $150,000 a day or more, said Andrea Young, Sam Houston’s president. During its most recent Thoroughbred meet, Nov. 27, 2009 to April 3, 2010, Sam Houston raced approximately 60 dates and averaged $103,000 a day in purses.

Sam Houston’s plan also calls for a Quarter Horse meet that primarily follows the Thoroughbred season and continues through May 9.

“It’s a condensed schedule to really, three and a half months a year and it works out for us on a lot of levels,” said Young.

Sam Houston’s decision will impact Lone Star’s 2011 meeting.

“We can understand their reasoning, and obviously, we’re disappointed for ourselves,” said Drew Shubeck, president of Lone Star. “We thought we could put on a better race meet program with that money.”

The new plan will first be discussed with horsemen, and Sam Houston could then submit an amended dates request to the Texas Racing Commission. The panel is expected to award dates for next year at its Sept. 14 meeting.

Jan Haynes, president of the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership, is familiar with the new plan and said she looks forward to talking to Young in more detail on Tuesday.

“There’s still some tweaking to do,” Haynes said. “We are getting closer, but we want to make sure both breeds have a sufficient number of racing opportunities at Sam Houston.”

In light of Sam Houston’s new proposal, Lone Star’s purse structure would end up being in the $140,000 a day range if the track runs the 60 spring and summer dates it requested last month. Shubeck said purse levels would be discussed with horsemen Tuesday.

“We’re looking at the number of racing days so we can run at a purse level acceptable to Lone Star,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of average daily purse level we can both live with.”

All parties concerned said they hope to have a firm plan to submit to the commission after the meeting Tuesday.