Additional Race Days at Manor Downs Denied

What could have turned out to be the shortest Texas Racing Commission (TRC) meeting in history was unexpectedly drawn out today.

The meeting of the Commission, which began at 10:00 a.m., had an agenda dealing mostly with administrative matters such as its budget and the selection of a testing lab, in addition to many issues dealing with the greyhound industry. There were only a couple of issues today that dealt with horse racing. One was the allocation of the cross species escrow account, along with the corresponding breed splits, and the second was the change in Manor Downs' Thoroughbred race dates.

The TRC accepted the industry's "global agreement" as the method for allocating money in the escrow account among the state's racetracks, and Dr. Schultz gave praise to the industry and those involved in this historic event. Chairperson Lacey thanked Dr. Schultz and echoed his remarks. This cross species agreement will also generate approximately $1 million annually in horse purses over and above what the law specifies each year of the agreement.

When the issue of Manor Downs' dates came up, most everyone in the audience expected this to be a "no-brainer," but Corey Johnsen from Lone Star Park went to the podium and convinced the Commission that adding a day of racing at Manor Downs would significantly hurt Lone Star's ability to attract full fields during that period of overlap.

The proposal up for consideration was to add an additional Thoroughbred day at Manor, bringing the total to 11 days and shifting the meet to begin two weeks earlier than originally planned.

Tommy Azopardi of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership gave testimony stating that the THP was merely trying to find opportunities for the "lower level" of Thoroughbred horses needing races during the Lone Star Park meet. Azopardi stated that the THP was responding to concerns voiced recently by some of its members whose horses have difficulty entering and competing at Lone Star Park. Azopardi went on to say that the shift in days was also designed to eliminate the gap between the Sam Houston Thoroughbred meet and the beginning of the Manor Downs Thoroughbred meet.

"We were told that this was an extreme hardship to some of our members and, therefore, we were determined to help them with this issue," said Azopardi.

Although everyone giving testimony except Johnsen made compelling arguments in support of the changes at Manor, the request failed to get a majority of support from the Commissioners. Chairperson Teri Lacy suggested that the TRC take a short break, and she asked the interested parties to settle their differences by finding a compromise solution.

"We could not get an extra day, but we were able to convince Corey that starting Manor's Thoroughbred meet two weeks earlier was in everyone's best interest. The TRC voted unanimously to approve that change", stated Azopardi.

Therefore, the Thoroughbred dates at Manor Downs next year will be from April 27 through Sunday, May 26, 2002.

The commission set its next meeting for February 20, 2002.

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