By T. D. Thornton
With Retama Park opting to race only Quarter Horses in 2021, Sam Houston Race Park (46 dates) and Lone Star Park (42 dates) will make up the bulk of the Thoroughbred schedule in Texas next year. The Texas Racing Commission (TRC) approved the changes and granted the requested slate of race dates at its Sept. 29 meeting.
Retama had switched its schedule to exclusively Quarter Horses this season, swapping out Thoroughbred dates to other tracks in deference to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will continue that format into 2021.
Sam Houston’s 2021 schedule will span Jan. 8-Apr. 3.
“Their request was originally for a 39-day Thoroughbred meet,” said TRC chief steward Ricky Walker. “But because Retama Park has requested to run a straight Quarter Horse meet this year and has agreed to transfer some Thoroughbred purse money, Sam Houston agreed to add seven days to their request.”
Lone Star is scheduled to race Apr. 16-July 18.
The Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA), which oversees the accredited Texas-bred incentive program, had representatives testify both in writing and via videoconference at Tuesday’s meeting stating that the organization cannot support any Lone Star dates request that features:
A) fewer than 49 dates
B) anything less than a four-dates-weekly race schedule.
A Lone Star official explained that the track remains open to the idea of requesting additional race dates at a later time, depending on how the pandemic affects business and projected purses over the next six months.
Gillespie County Fair was approved for its traditional eight-date mixed meet over four weekends in July and August.
The TTA stated in a Twitter posting after the meeting that estimated daily average purses at Sam Houston will be $235,000, with seven of the meet’s 13 weeks featuring four racing dates per week. Lone Star, under the three-day weekly format, projects to pay out $225,000.