Texas Racing Commission Grants Three Racetrack Licenses

At a meeting on Tuesday, March 20, the Texas Racing Commission (TRC) awarded licenses for three new Class 2 racetracks in Texas. All three granted licenses are for facilities planned in South Texas. On will be located in McAllen, and the other two will be located in the Laredo area.

A group called Valle de los Tesoros, Ltd., led by Greg and Steve LaMantia, whose family owns a major beer distributorship in South Texas, was granted the McAllen license. The group also includes several Texas horsemen and will be managed by Retama Park.

The proposed $23-million facility, which is expected to offer 18 days of mixed meet racing annually, will include a seven-furlong racetrack, an outdoor grandstand, and an indoor simulcast facility.

The license was granted despite opposition from officials with Valley Race Park, a greyhound track located about 35 miles away.

The MAXXAM license for the Laredo area was issued on the condition that the company divests itself of its ownership interest Valley Race Park by May 4. This is because the Texas Racing Act does not allow a person or company to own more than a 5% share in two racetracks in the state at one time, and MAXXAM already owns Sam Houston Race Park and Valley Race Park.

MAXXAM’s planned $28-million facility for Laredo would include an enclosed, air-conditioned grandstand, a seven-furlong racetrack, and year-round simulcasting. The track would conduct 20 to 30 days of mixed meet racing per year and would also remain open year-round as a training facility.

The other Laredo license, granted to a group including the LaMantia family and a Retama Park group, is slated to be a $15-million facility with an open-air grandstand and a seven-furlong racetrack. Managed by Retama Park, the track would conduct 20 to 30 days of mixed meet racing every year and be open for year-round simulcasting.

The state classifies its racetracks, with Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie, Retama Park near San Antonio, and Sam Houston Race Park in Houston all classified as Class I tracks. Smaller Class II racetracks are required to race fewer days. Manor Downs is currently the only Class II racetrack operating in Texas.

While licenses for two other Class II racetracks have been awarded by the TRC in recent years (Saddle Brook Park in Amarillo and the Austin Jockey Club), neither have currently built nor opened facilities. The last new racetrack to open in Texas was Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie, which opened for simulcasting in 1996 and for live racing in 1997.

Each of the groups licensed on Tuesday are expected to build their racetracks and open for simulcasting in 2008, with racing soon to follow.

In other business at the meeting, the TRC did not approve Retama Park’s request for a Thoroughbred meet in 2008 that would begin in January and run through March. The request was opposed by Sam Houston Race Park, which traditionally conducts a winter Thoroughbred meet that includes the requested months.

Originally, Retama had requested 42 days of Thoroughbred racing in the fall of 2007. However, the track later amended that request to instead conduct a 12-day Thoroughbred meet at Sam Houston Race Park. The idea was that this would allow Retama to build its purse account in order to conduct a meet in early 2008.

Retama officials will now regroup and determine the track’s best course of action, which could include seeking a 2007 fall meet and/or requesting different dates for 2008.

-compiled from information by Texas Thoroughbred Association, Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Times, and The Blood-Horse

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