THP Update: Texas Racing Is Holding Steady

(Austin, Texas - Thursday, August 24, 2023) - Despite some news outlets and individuals attempting to paint an inaccurate picture of the Texas horse racing industry as being in dire straits or near collapse, those reports are simply not true. In fact, the Texas racing and breeding industries are holding strong in spite of less-than-ideal circumstances that were thrust upon them by an attempt at federal regulation that contradicts Texas statute. 

Just this week, it was announced that the Texas Horsemen's Partnership, Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA), Sam Houston Race Park and Lone Star Park came together in support to reconfigure the allocation of funds provided by the TTA to the tracks from the Texas Horse Industry Escrow Account. This plan would increase the minimum purse for Texas-bred Thoroughbreds in maiden special weight and allowance races by 21% to $40,000 starting in 2024. 

Legislation, passed in 2019, provides up to $25 million per year to stimulate the Texas Equine Industry, with 70% ($17.5 million) earmarked for purse funds and the remaining 30% ($7.5 million) available to the official state breed registries (TTA, TQHA, TABA, TPHA) for Texas Racing Commission-approved events and programs. 

Since the influx of additional purse funds, improvements continue to be made to the state's racing program. Purses for the Texas Thoroughbred Association Futurity Divisions at Lone Star Park were enriched to a $150,000 purse for each division. Additionally, the $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Derby and Oaks were both added to the Sam Houston Race Park calendar. These were just a few of the things that have helped lure additional quality stallions to Texas in recent years. 

The Texas Quarter Horse racing industry has also seen a boost in both purses and handle. At the Quarter Horse meet currently underway at Retama Park, the San Antonio track just recorded its highest attendance and handle in many years. The TQHA Sires Cup Futurity, contested at Retama Park this summer, is the second highest purse in the state for Quarter Horses. 

It's true that the Texas Thoroughbred racing industry has taken a financial hit this year with the implementation of the federal Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) and its Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) Program. 

However, HISA does not have the authority to operate as a regulatory body over Texas horse racing. 

The Texas Racing Commission has been very clear that The Texas Racing Act specifically provides, among other applicable provisions, that, "The commission shall regulate and supervise each race meeting in this state that involves wagering on the result of horse racing or greyhound racing. Each person and thing relating to the operation of a race meeting is subject to regulation and supervision by the commission." 

As a result, the Texas Racing Commission has been clear that Texas law will continue to control any horse race wagering in Texas. 

As Texas is not under the regulatory control of HISA, it may not export its simulcast signal to inter-state locations. Intra-state and foreign receiving locations are still able to watch and wager on Texas races. 

Despite this major change to its business model, the state horse racing industry has worked together to find ways to remain strong and offer a competitive breeding and racing program for horsemen and women. 

Purses for 2023 were slightly lower than 2022, but the tracks have done a great job promoting live race meets, and on-track handle has been higher than 2022. Field size has remained strong, and accredited Texas-bred programs continue to offer robust Texas-bred purses and awards. 

According to Texas Horsemen's Partnership Executive Director, Marsha Rountree, "Horsemen and women across Texas continue to express confidence in the Texas racing and breeding programs, and investment in those programs remain strong. Our members know Texans can’t be kept down, and this industry will continue to overcome whatever challenges are put in front of us. Members of the Texas horse racing industry are proud of their heritage and their accomplishments, and they are no strangers to defying expert expectations and finding ways to flourish even in challenging times. Now is a great time to come to Texas. The continued strength of Texas horse sales is a solid indication that breeders, trainers, and owners are optimistic about the future of Texas racing." 

As the Texas racing industry looks forward towards 2024, there is the expectation that the tracks will offer the same number of race days as in 2023, supported by a still strong purse structure. Add to that the increase in minimum purses for Accredited Texas-Bred Thoroughbred maiden special weight and starter allowance races, and the future continues to be bright for Texas racing and breeding.

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