Last weekend Sam Houston Race Park concluded its 2012 Thoroughbred meet. And the Good News: The racetrack posted a 35% increase in handle and a 40% increase in average daily attendance.
This is a positive - and maybe hopeful? - sign for the slotless Texas horse racing industry. It was only a couple of years ago that Texas racetracks proposed consolidation; eliminating 48% of racing dates. SHRP was prepared to axe its 2011 Thoroughbred meet and transfer its purse monies to Lone Star Park in a bid to bolster foundering purses. Well, needless to say, a small faction of Texas horsemen thought the idea basically sucked and put up a fight. When the smoke cleared, racing dates were reduced but SHRP's meet was still intact.
And instead of barking the usual Texas racetrack battle cry, "We need our VLTs!", Sam Houston did something that I have been touting for years: Be creative!
The racetrack had a 31 day "boutique" meet to increase their purses. To the bettors' delight, there were rolling Pick-3's with 12% takeout and 50-cent trifectas. They revised their popular Texas Champions Day and turned it into a 2-day Texas Champions Weekend extravaganza. Friday night 50-cent beers! Camel races! Ostrich races! Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!
SHRP brass felt they offered the most competitive racing program ever, however they know that there is room for improvement. Apparently, their on-time performance for major races was poor, running as many as 22 minutes behind schedule. Their premier event, the $150,000 Maxxam Gold Cup has no business going off at 10:50 p.m.; that's not an attractive hour for your East coast bettors. However, SHRP is now on the Creativity Express so hopefully we'll continue to see progress.
Meanwhile, Lone Star Park is preparing for the start of their Spring Thoroughbred meet on April 12. I've already voiced my displeasure at their initial "creativity." One can only hope that the positive gains demonstrated by SHRP will serve as an inspiration to Lone Star Park and provide a much-needed energy jolt for Texas horse racing.