BREAKING NEWS: Sam Houston Race Park will cancel 2023 Racing Festival … 43 race days proposed, for now

BREAKING NEWS ... Sam Houston Race Park makes the decision to run a Thoroughbred meet schedule in 2023 ... reduced ... news below. (Photo: courtesy of SHRP).
BREAKING NEWS ... Sam Houston Race Park makes the decision to run a Thoroughbred meet schedule in 2023 ... reduced ... news below. (Photo: courtesy of SHRP).

Sources close to Sam Houston Race Park (SHRP) have confirmed that the 2023 Thoroughbred Meet will proceed next year, if approved by the Texas Racing Commission (TXRC). However, there will be significant cuts to the stakes schedule, including the Houston Racing Festival, the track's marquee event. This is directly related to the TXRC’s decision to not allow the signal to be exported beyond the state border.

That response came when the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) went “live” at the beginning of July. The TXRC argued that HISA’s control of any aspect of their supervision would be in direct conflict with the Texas Racing Act.

Therefore, wagering on Texas races outside the state are now prohibited. Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, which is owned by Global Gaming LLC, was the only 100% Thoroughbred track running at the time. They reportedly lost over $1 million in revenue over the course of 3 weeks, despite initially having an agreement with HISA.

The TXRC had given SHRP an extension until the end of August to make a decision about the 2023 dates, with the possibility of a postponement until the end of September. Despite the impending deadline, SHRP (which is owned by Penn Entertainment) will move forward with a 43-day meet beginning on January 6th.

The race days will be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with a pair of Mondays. Unlike in previous years, live racing will take place in the afternoon, instead of at night. The reasoning is that patrons might be inclined to wager before leaving in the late afternoon, and that opportunities may exist to attract new racing fans during afternoon hours.

As for the stakes schedule, “open” races will likely be cancelled. The additional money will be transferred into the overnight races. What is known as Texas Champions Day will continue, since it is the Texas Thoroughbred Association that funds these contests.

The Houston Racing Festival will not occur, which includes the Grade 3 $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic and the Grade 3 $200,000 Connally Turf Cup. Last year, that Sunday event generated $5.98 million in handle, most of which came from the export signal.

Over the course of the next year, the TXRC plans to overhaul the Texas Rules of Racing, and could address the Texas Racing Act-HISA controversy. But the latter must involve the legislature, which does not open its session until January 1, 2023. The TXRC has made it clear through their support of lawsuits that they are hoping that HISA will be revamped or overturned.

This 2023 SHRP Meet news comes at not a moment too soon, as the Texas Yearling Sale is scheduled for Monday, August 29, 2022 beginning at 10:00 a.m. at Lone Star Park’s Sales Pavilion. With the possibility of the cancellation of Thoroughbred racing next year, demand was expected to be greatly affected.

The TXRC meets tomorrow, August 24 at 10:30 a.m., and you can watch the livestream on their website.

*Note ... Since the publishing of this story on Tuesday evening, Sam Houston Race Park has clarified its position. They are still working on their 2023 stakes schedule. News will be forthcoming.