By Susan Dalebroux, Post
Texas voices ...
"We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for
the contest, and must conquer or perish. It is vain to look for present aid:
none is at hand."
-Sam Houston, before the Battle of
"Our tote board is broken."
-Sam Houston Race Park officials,
canceling live racing.
Sam Houston Race Park canceled its 2008/2009
Live Thoroughbred Meet due to damage sustained by Hurricane Ike. The Texas Racing Commission and various
horsemen and track officials from Texas racetracks, including Lone Star Park,
toured the facility last week, and agreed that live racing could not be
conducted because there is damage to the grandstand roof as well as the
electrical system so that it would leave no place to plug in a frozen margarita
machine. However, SHRP was pleased to
announce that simulcast and tote machines would not be adversely affected by
missing portions of the roof and/or insulation, however simulcast patrons
should be wary of touching anything electric should it be raining.
The Texas Racing Commission, all clucked in agreement, and
in an effort to continue to promote Texas horse racing and consider the Texas
racing fan, the TRC approved the transfer of 43 of SHRP's originally scheduled
65 days of racing to Retama Park.
Now, there has been general wailing and gnashing of teeth as
of late by Texas horsemen. They have
complained about purses not being competitive enough with neighboring states,
i.e., Louisiana and New Mexico, and thus horsemen are being lured out of state,
and thus the Texas-bred foal production has decreased, and thus the competition
is dwindling to substandard product, and thus racing fans are preferring to
stay at home and eat Tostitos on their couches while watching their big screen
TVs, and thus the handle is declining, and thus the horsemen want to have the
purses supplemented with money from slots, and thus this will improve the horse
racing product, and thus fans will come back in droves because Texas horse
racing will be the greatest in the country!
So, apparently, part of their master plan is to transfer
two-thirds of SHRP meet to the hottest spot in Texas horse racing, Retama
Park. I mean, why transfer dates to
Texas' premier horse racing venue and site
of the 2004 Breeders' Cup World Championships, Lone Star Park, when there's
Let me share with you a couple of interesting facts about
Retama Park, since it will be this winter's thoroughbred racing
destination. It's located north of San
Antonio, actually in Selma, Texas. Many,
many years ago, Selma was known for being a great speed trap because you'd be
flying down I-35 from Austin, a little bit over the posted speed limit of 70
mph, listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn on the car stereo and drinking a Slurpee
from 7-Eleven. And as soon as you had
San Antonio in your sights - BAM! - you'd drive through Selma where the speed
limit would instantaneously drop to 55 mph and there would be the
radar-gun-toting Selma cop. And there
you'd sit, in your car on the shoulder of I-35, drinking your Slurpee and
patiently waiting for the fine Selma officer to hand you your ticket, and you
would look out your car window and say, "Hey, look! There's Retama Park!"
I also discovered that Retama Park was featured in the
block-buster movie, Veritas: Prince
According to the Thoroughbred
Times [September 8, 2004],
In the scene shot at Retama, Nemesii uses her mind to make
a horse fall on top of a jockey and Veritas uses his healing powers to mend
both human and animal.
So, as you can see in the still below, there's Veritas
healing some kind of horse in need of dental work, lying on the track at Retama
And Veritas healing the unfortunate jockey, played by Casey
Regardless of its claim to fame, transferring racing dates
to Retama was somewhat puzzling to me. I
envisioned heated discussions and debates and fistfights; the Texas racing
industry would make great strives to keep all 65 racing dates and demonstrate
tenacity, integrity, competition, and the Texan Way.
West, of the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, was part of the entourage touring
Sam Houston Race Park last week. "I
expected some fireworks, but got none," he shared with me. "The horsemen raised no objections, nor did
Lone Star. And the Commission, always Houston-leaning, didn't question
One can speculate that it has to do with money. Trainer Bret Calhoun had said
that SHRP had "overpayed purses from last year" and intimated that the facility
was just looking for way out.
Additionally, the money in the purse fund being transferred to Retama is
$3.8 million; eliminate 22 racing days and a couple of stakes races and Retama
just has to generate self-supporting revenue from the handle.
So, it is not unreasonable to envision Lone Star Park, given
the economy as well as MEC's own troubles, sitting on their hands instead of
doing battle for the glory of Texas racing.
But what of the horsemen? No
Gary West offered his thoughts: "Many Texas horsemen would
rather race at Retama, not for the weather or the facility or any of the
reasons you might expect. They'd rather race at Retama simply because the
competition will be easier. Lone Star would attract better horses. It's a priority
that, of course, ignores the state's racing fans."
Texas racing could sure use a guy like Sam Houston.