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Sam Houston Slated To Have Shorter Thoroughbred Season in 2023.
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Sam Houston Slated To Have Shorter Thoroughbred Season in 2023.

by Daniel BenjaminAugust 27, 2022

Sam Houston Race Park announced its plans to have 43 live thoroughbred racing days in 2023 during the Texas Racing Commission’s meeting on August 24. The Houston-area Park’s 2023 thoroughbred season will run from January 6 thru early April, with live racing being held three days a week in the afternoon (Friday-Sunday). The proposed 43 live racing days are a slight reduction of live racing over the past few years.

Sam Houston Race Park (SHRP) had 50 race days in 2022 and handled more than $103 million in wagers in 2022. They hosted 46 live racing days in 2021, reportedly one of the track’s most successful seasons since it opened in 1994. Meanwhile, Lone Star Park – Texas’ other thoroughbred track located in Grand Prairie – has requested to hold 48 days of live racing, which is basically the same number of days as this year.

So, what is the reason for the reduction of the number of days at SHRP for next season? It is because betting on Texas thoroughbred racing is expected to be significantly lower in 2023 than this past season. This projection is based on the continuation of the Horse Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) and Texas Racing Commission continuing.

The conflict between the two respective governing bodies is causing betting issues for the state and handicappers. HISA took over the governing of horse racing throughout the country early last month.

In protest of HISA taking control, TRC is preventing state tracks from exporting their simulcast signal out of state, which caused betting at Lone Star Park to plummet in the final month of the thoroughbred season. Advance deposit wagering is illegal in Texas, and all legal bets must be made at a racetrack in-state. According to industry studies, upwards of 90% of a track’s handle is from wagering via simulcast.

SHRP’s general manager and vice president of operations, Dwight Berube, did ask the TRC during the meeting to allow the track to maintain scheduling flexibility in case the issue between HISA and TRC is resolved. Berube also said the stakes schedule is not finalized.

“We have not yet designed the stakes program or figured out all the details surrounding the meet. But within a week, I would say you will probably receive our application.”

Sam Houston Stakes Schedule

While a stakes schedule at SHRP has not officially been comprised, some things are known. The total purse for all 2023 races is projected to be around $10 million, without simulcast revenue, down from $12 million in 2022. Sam Houston hosted 13 stakes races this past season.

Also there will also be 10 stakes races for Texas-bred horses – which include Texas Champion Day – and two legs of the Clarence Schaubauer, Jr. Texas Stallion Stakes. SHRP will also add a $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Derby for 3-year-olds who are graduates of the 2021 TTA Yearling Sale or 2022 TTA Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

“With Monday’s Texas Thoroughbred Association Yearling Sale on the immediate horizon, we appreciate the continued support of the Texas tracks. On Monday, we will offer more than 200 yearlings, which is the most in recent history. Over the past couple of years, we have made great strides in the quality of racing in Texas.” – TTA Executive Director Mary Ruyle said.

However, there are questions surrounding whether the open stakes races will be included on the slate, which includes the popular Houston Racing Festival. The Houston Racing Festival features the only two graded stakes that the track holds with the Grade III $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic and Grade III $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup.

So What Is The HISA-TRC Conflict?

On July 1, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began implementing phase 1 of a two-part scheme to create national standards for thoroughbred horse racing safety and welfare proposed by HISA. Part 1 of the program is the Racetrack Safety Program which seeks to enhance the welfare of horses and jockeys by limiting injuries to the participants. The Racetrack Safety Program expands veterinary oversight, imposes surface maintenance and testing requirements, enhances jockey safety, regulates riding crop use, and implements voided claim rules, among others.

HISA requires all racing participants to register themselves and any horses in their care with the authority. HISA prohibits commissions and other state authorities from implementing inconsistent safety and anti-doping measures. Therefore, HISA also restricts states from requiring anything more or different from HISA’s safety regulations.

The State of Texas, along with a few other states and TRC, challenged HISA’s constitutionally claiming a violation of the non-delegation doctrine and the due process clause. TRC argued that state law requires races in Texas to be run only under their authority. But they lost both measures, although an appeal of the ruling is in process

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About The Author
Daniel Benjamin