Texas Horsemen's Partnership Meetings at LSP and SHRP Part of Continuing Examination of Possible 2011 Race Dates in Texas

(Austin, Texas - July 6, 2010) - Every year, the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership, the breed organizations (TTA, TQHA, TABA, TPHA), and the Texas racetracks hold a number of meetings to discuss the upcoming year’s race dates calendar in hopes of coming to a consensus in time to present a united industry plan to the Texas Racing Commission (TxRC) when it is time for race dates to be considered by the Commission. This year, because of the continuing decline in handle – both live and outbound simulcast – we began our meetings earlier than normal. In addition to race dates, we all wanted to brainstorm ideas to promote our industry, trying to find creative solutions in areas like new wagers and other possible promotional incentives for our patrons.

During these meetings, all parties put their preferences and concerns out on the table, and we have progressively tried to hammer out an agreement on a race dates calendar for 2011 that is acceptable – though not necessarily ideal – to all parties involved.

Concurrently, the TxRC staff talks to all of the involved parties and analyzes all the available data (wagering trends, purse levels, race dates, etc.) every year. Based on this information, the TxRC staff develops a recommendation for a race dates calendar for the following year.

If all the involved parties come to an acceptable agreement on dates and the TxRC staff approves of the plan, this is what the TxRC staff recommends to its Commissioners. If no agreement is reached, or if the TxRC staff does not like the agreement that is reached, the TxRC can recommend its own alternate plan to its Commissioners. In the end, it is the TxRC that has the power to set the racing calendar, at which time it is each track’s choice as to whether to run the dates granted to it, request a change in dates or number of days, or refuse to run the dates it was granted and face any consequences of doing so.

Wagering levels, and thus purse levels, have dropped in Texas for the last four consecutive years. At the same time, the racing states that surround us (Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas) and with which we compete for horsemen and horses have all benefited from alternative forms of gaming supplementing their purse structures. Once competitive in the region, Texas purses are now lagging behind all of its competitors, and the resulting exodus of horses and horsemen have led to smaller and smaller field sizes and a lower quality of racing – a combination that has caused wagering on Texas racing to slip in recent years. As a result, all of the parties involved in Texas racing acknowledged early this year that we would have to consider some very difficult choices regarding 2011 race dates this year, so the discussions and meetings commenced earlier than usual.

Many ideas and scenarios have been researched and discussed, and many widely varying opinions on all of those scenarios have been considered. In an effort to make sure horsemen had a chance to hear an accurate depiction of where the negotiations currently stand, the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership held a meeting for its member horsemen at Lone Star Park last Thursday, July 1 and at Sam Houston Race Park last Friday, July 2. In attendance at both meetings were representatives from the THP’s Board and each of the state’s three Class One racetracks.

Approximately 150 horsemen attended the meeting at Lone Star, and approximately 80 attended the meeting at Sam Houston. At both meetings, the Texas racetracks laid out their current proposal for 2011 race dates.

According to the tracks’ current proposal for 2011, Lone Star Park will race Thoroughbreds starting the first week in April for 60 days for an average daily purse distribution of $230,000. Sam Houston would have a 25-28 day mixed meet in June and July, and Retama Park would have a 25-day mixed meet starting in early August. The exact dates of the mixed meets are still undecided and can be adjusted to meet the needs of the horsemen.

Retama Park will have a 16-day Thoroughbred meet this year beginning on September 3rd.

Negotiations are still ongoing, and the horsemen are waiting for a proposal from the racetracks regarding the very important Spring Quarter Horse dates that have been lost as a result of Manor Downs announcing that it will not apply for dates for 2011.

The THP, the breed organizations, and the tracks will continue this annual negotiation process in hopes of coming to an agreement on a 2011 race dates proposal we can jointly submit to the TxRC for consideration. As this arduous process continues, the THP welcomes the input of its member horsemen and women.

The THP acknowledges that this is a very important issue for all horsemen and women racing in Texas, and the members of the Boards of Directors of the THP’s partner organizations, THBPA and TTHBPA, Inc., are trying very hard to find the right mix of race meets, race dates, and attainable purse levels based on current and projected wagering levels in order to offer the best opportunities possible for horsemen racing in Texas during this very difficult time.

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