Texas Thoroughbred Racing Sees New Stakes Races


By David Hooper, CEO, Texas Thoroughbred Association

AUSTIN, (TTA) – Kudos to Andrea Young, president of Sam Houston Race Park, and Eric Johnston, vice president of racing, for thinking out of the box and making an effort to put the track in the national limelight in late January, a time between the Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown, when interest in racing is relatively dormant.

They have done so by creating a major new stakes, the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares on January 26 to be the centerpiece of the 4-stakes Connally Racing Festival. The stellar card will include the renewal of the Grade 3 $200,000 Connally Turf Cup at 1 1/8 miles, plus two supporting sprint stakes, the $75,000 Champion Energy Services at five furlongs on turf and the $50,000 Allen’s Landing Stakes at six furlongs on the main track.

The debut of the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, the richest race in the track’s history, has caught both national and local television interest. Young has advised that negotiations are close to being finalized with HRTV and Fox Sports in Houston to televise the Ladies and Connally live on January 26.

The Connally Racing Festival will include a fund-raising event to benefit the Houston affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.

Sam Houston officials are also introducing a “Ship Assist Program” to encourage owners shipping a filly or mare for the Ladies Classic to also bring one or more horses for the other three stakes on the card. For any owner with a starter in the Ladies and at least one other horse in one of the other three stakes, SHRP will waive the owner’s original pre-entry fee or $2,000 of the $10,000 supplemental nomination fee.

The restructured stakes program is the richest in track history, totaling $1.7 million. The schedule includes one or more stakes every Saturday night, with multiple stakes on six of the nine Saturday programs plus three stakes to kick off the season on opening night, Friday, January 18, to start Texas Champions Weekend. Four more stakes for Texas-breds headline the next card on Saturday, January 19.

Texas Stallion Stakes Weekend finds the Jim’s Orbit and Two Altazano, both $75,000-guaranteed stakes for Texas-sired runners, being renewed at one mile on a night when Texas Thoroughbred Association will be holding its Annual Awards Banquet honoring the owners and breeders of the 2012 Texas Champions of each division and the Texas Horse of the Year.

The 1 1/8-mile $100,000 MAXXAM Gold Cup heads the March 2 program with three $50,000 supporting stakes.

The TTA’s Breeding and Racing Committees conducted a joint conference call meeting early Thursday morning to consider options for making changes to the Texas Stallion Stakes Series beginning with the races for the foal crop of 2011. The meeting was called due to significant declines in stallion and foal nominations in recent years, coupled with the need to tap further into Class 1 track purse accounts to make up any shortfall in funds to reach the guaranteed purse amount for each division.

Following discussion of various options, participants in the joint committee call unanimously agreed to propose a reduction of the present 4-race series of races for each division to a 3-race series by eliminating the present 5½-furlong first race at Lone Star Park.
The remodeled Texas Stallion Stakes Series is proposed to begin in 2013 at Retama Park at six furlongs, with the second leg offered at seven furlongs at Sam Houston, rather than one mile, and the third and final leg to be run at one mile at Lone Star Park rather than 1 1/16 miles.

In order to have continuity of escalating distances for each foal crop, the joint committee proposed cutting the distance of the Bara Lass and Groovy from seven to 6½ furlongs. The joint committee also proposed moving the two divisions of the 5-furlong TTA Sales Futurity from its present position on the Lone Star stakes calendar in mid-June to Stars of Texas Day on closing weekend in early July. The latter change will also give Texas owners and breeders more time to get their 2-year-olds ready, give them some experience and increase their earnings to levels that will meet preference conditions for starting.

When presented with the proposed changes yesterday, the directors of racing at each Class 1 track expressed their support for the revisions.

The TTA Board will consider the recommendations in a conference call meeting likely next week.

Texas Thoroughbred Association has added the names of new stallions to its 2013 online auction with the additions coming from two prominent farms, Asmussen Horse Center and Lane’s End Texas.

The proven stallions Intimidator, Littleexpectations and Primal Storm have been added to the online offerings by Asmussen Horse Center.

Lane’s End Texas has submitted the names of Grasshopper, Sing Baby Sing, Supreme Cat, Too Much Bling, Touch Tone and Valid Expectations. Valid Expectations has been Texas’ perennial leading stallion since his arrival in Texas in 2000 and has been represented by 42 stakes winners. Too Much Bling is ranked nationally on the 2-year-old and 3rd crop sires’ lists with 7 stakes winners and 13 black-type runners. Touch Tone had the 1-2 finishers in the Got Koko Division of the Texas Stallion Stakes at Lone Star Park last year. Supreme Cat is the sire of Texas champion Tin Top Cat. Grasshopper and Sing Baby Sing will have their first crop of yearlings at sales in 2013.

Fast furlongs…New York’s equine industry had a $4.2 billion economic impact, a 75% increase since a similar study in 2005, and generated 33,000 direct and indirect full-time jobs in 2011 according to a report commissioned by the New York Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry comprising Thoroughbred and Standardbred breed and horsemen’s organizations and the New York Farm Bureau…The New York Racing Association Board of Directors has approved proposing five of its current members to be part of the new 21-member NYRA Reorganization Board that will include eight gubernatorial appointees, including the chairman, two appointees by the State Senate and Assembly and two ex-officio members representing the state breed and horsemen’s organization…New Jersey has begun accepting applications from state casinos and racetracks to conduct sports wagering beginning in January, but legal challenges may make the target date moot due to current federal law allowing sports betting in only four states…Pinnacle Entertainment, owner of River Downs on the outskirts of Cincinnati, has announced a sale of track memorabilia, except for seats, as the first step towards replacing the grandstand and clubhouse with a modern structure to house slot machines and be customer friendly to racing fans at the track located adjacent to the Ohio River…Officials of California tracks and organizations representing other interests have begun discussions about relocation of racing dates traditionally belonging to Hollywood Park in view of the Los Angeles track’s pending redevelopment…Prominent Eastern owner Mike Repole’s silks crossed the Saratoga finish line more often than anyone else’s colors during the summer’s premier meet, but they won’t be seen on the West Coast during Breeders’ Cup weekend because of Repole’s opposition to the ban on Lasix administration in the five stakes for 2-year-olds…Churchill Downs Inc. has introduced a new way to bet on races online through Luckity.com, an interactive game now legal under a new federal law, with women 35 and over expected to find the game popular if they like slot machines and other interactive games…Tim Boyce, director of sales for Fasig-Tipton Texas, has notified consignors of the cancellation of the December Mixed Sale due to an insufficient number of entries…The parent Fasig-Tipton Company has become a presenting partner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup having signed on as sponsor of the “Breakfast Marquee,” popular accompaniment at trackside to the morning workouts with horsemen and visitors the week of the Championships…Breed-split discussions involving Class 1 track operators and breed and horsemen’s organization representatives moved forward on October 15, but a unanimous agreement being encouraged by the Texas Racing Commission is presently hung up over equitable splits of new found purse revenue to be generated by simulcasting in Saddle Brook Park’s temporary location in Amarillo…Retama Park’s third of 13 10-race Friday and Saturday night racing cards have 192 horses in the entries topped by a $23,000 allowance and optional claiming race to be run as Saturday’s 8th…Retama’s live races are being streamed over the Retamapark.com website where replays are also available on all platforms including Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone and Android.