09/10/2010 3:49PM

Texas horsemen endorse plan for 2011 calendar


The board of the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership on Friday voted to endorse a Thoroughbred plan that would feature 27 dates at Sam Houston from January to March, 52 dates at Lone Star Park from April to July, and 21 dates at Retama Park from September to October.

Horsemen also voted to approve a Quarter Horse calendar that has meets at each of the major tracks in Texas, said Jan Haynes, president of the THP.

For months, a plan to consolidate the majority of the state’s Thoroughbred dates at Lone Star had been discussed among racing leaders as a means of raising daily average purses to a level competitive with those of surrounding states, many of which generate revenue with alternative forms of gambling. Last month, it appeared the plan was in full motion when Sam Houston asked the commission for approval to drop its upcoming winter-spring Thoroughbred meet in order to transfer more than $4 million from its purse account to Lone Star, the state’s marquee track, to help fuel a richer Thoroughbred meet that would offer purses of about $230,000 a day.

But the game changed last week, when Sam Houston reverted to one of its initial dates plans and pitched a winter Thoroughbred meet that horsemen endorsed Friday. Andrea Young, the track’s president, said Sam Houston has asked the commission to race Thoroughbreds from Jan. 21 to March 6 next year and Quarter Horses from March 11 to May 15. The plan does not include any transfer of purse money to Lone Star, with Sam Houston projecting Thoroughbred purses at its meet to be about $150,000 a day, up from the $103,000 a day it paid out over about 60 dates during its winter-spring meet in 2009-2010.

Lone Star also has asked the commission for a shorter Thoroughbred meet in 2011. Drew Shubeck, the track’s president, said he has submitted an amended dates request to the commission reflecting Lone Star’s desire for a 52-date season next year, with projected purses of $170,000 a day. This year, Lone Star raced 60 days, with purses of $150,000 a day. Shubeck said Lone Star has asked to open April 14 and run to July 10.

“We wanted to do the highest day purse we could with the amount of money we had available locally,” he said.

Lone Star also has requested a Sept. 16 to Nov. 12 meet for Quarter Horses.

Retama has amended its dates request for 2011, said Bryan Brown, the track’s chief executive officer. He said the track has proposed 45 days of racing next year, with a Quarter Horse meet opening July 1. Retama would then shift to a mixed meet the last week in July and through the month of August, with a good deal of those racing opportunities for Quarter Horses. Then, from September to Oct. 15, Retama would hold a 21-date Thoroughbred meet, with purses averaging $80,000 a day. The purse level is the same as the current 16-date meet at Retama.

Brown said the date changes were made to address some horsemen needs.

“It was very clear to us all that in order to get the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred horsemen sufficient race dates in the spring, that Sam Houston was best to provide those opportunities,” he said. “And moving Sam Houston from racing Quarter Horses in the summer left a big void, and we were able to fill it. We felt it was important for us to step up and give the horsemen on both breeds what they needed in the form of racing opportunities.”

The Texas Racing Commission is scheduled to hear dates requests from the state’s tracks on Tuesday and at that time could set the calendar for 2011.