Sam Houston Race Park will kick off its 2020 live racing season on Friday, January 10 with an expanded 39-day Thoroughbred meet continuing through Saturday, March 28.
Several exciting changes are in store for the upcoming live season with a substantial boost in purses thanks to legislative action earlier this year. House Bill 2463 was passed by the 86th Texas Legislature, which will contribute $25 million annually to the Texas horse racing industry, split equally between Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse interests.
Sam Houston Race Park is the first of the Texas racetracks to host a live meet in 2020 and will offer overnight purses of approximately $200,000 per day with several notable purse increases:
· Maiden races will be offered at $36,000 compared to $20,000 last year;
· Claiming race purses will be approximately 80% higher than last year;
· Allowance races will start at $37,000 compared to $21,000 last year
The 2020 Thoroughbred Stakes schedule will offer over $1.75 million in purses, up from $1.1 million in 2019. The Houston Racing Festival will feature two graded stakes on Sunday, January 26: the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) and the John B. Connally Turf (G3). Midnight Bisou, owned by Bloom Racing Stable LLC, Madaket Stables LLC and Allen Racing LLC, won the 2019 edition of the Ladies Classic, the richest Thoroughbred race of the year at Sam Houston Race Park. Currently the top distaffer in North America and a leading Horse of the Year candidate, this talented filly added six more graded stakes wins after her Ladies Classic win and headlines the field for Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff at Santa Anita.
Additional upgrades to the 2020 Sam Houston Race Park stakes schedule include:
· The $200,000 Texas Turf Mile for 3-year-olds will debut on the Houston Racing Festival undercard;
· Texas Champions Preview Day will take place on Saturday, February 22. Formerly named Texas Stallions Day, two more stakes races have been added for a total of four Texas-breds stakes, each with a purse of $75,000;
· Texas Champions Day on Saturday, March 21 will salute Texas-bred runners with one additional stakes race for a total of seven stakes, each for a purse of $75,000.
Frank Hopf, Sam Houston Race Park’s Senior Director of Racing Operations, acknowledges the positive impact the purse increases will have for the upcoming meet.
“To be first out of the gate to begin the process of improving racing in Texas is certainly an opportunity to which we look forward, said Hopf. “Our new purse levels and stakes program have generated interest and enthusiasm about our 2020 live racing season. These are exciting times for the Texas horse racing industry.”
James Leatherman will serve as racing secretary for both the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meets at Sam Houston Race Park in 2020. The Vinton, Louisiana native has a 29-year tenure as a racing office official in Ohio, Colorado, Nebraska and New Mexico before joining Retama Park in 2005 as the track’s racing secretary. Leatherman was the racing secretary for the 2019 Quarter Horse season at Sam Houston Race Park and will continue to oversee the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meets at Retama Park in addition to his Sam Houston Race Park duties.
Stall applications for the upcoming meet are due by Tuesday, November 5. The Sam Houston Race Park barn area will open on Tuesday, December 3 with training hours set to commence on Friday, December 6. The first condition book is available at www.equibase.com and further information about the season can be accessed at www.shrp.com.