At last thrown a relatively small bone by state lawmakers two years ago, Texas racing is taking full advantage.
In September 2019 Texas lawmakers approved legislation that would commit an additional $25 million to the state’s horse racing industry, split equally between Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse purses. Texas has made the most of that small investment.
While Texas is surrounded by racing states that boost purses with money from added gaming—Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico—it has found a way forward behind its equine and racing tradition along with a pair of quality tracks in major metropolitan areas built in the 1990s in Lone Star Park, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area; and Sam Houston Race Park, in Houston.
Cilla thrust Louisana-breds into the spotlight with her gritty upset victory in the Sept. 4 Prioress Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course. The daughter of California Chromehails from Brett Brinkman’s farm in Cajun country, Louisiana, where Brinkman bred, raised, and broke the filly that would provide him with one of the biggest thrills of his career.
Brinkman, the co-owner, co-breeder, and trainer of Cilla who operates Le Mesa Stallions in Carencro, La., spoke with BloodHorse MarketWatch about his early beginnings in the industry, acquiring Cilla’s dam, the successful race mare Sittin At the Bar, and why he believes the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association program offers breeders significant value on the racetrack.
Bred by Joan Adcock, the gelding is the first foal out of the Three Hour Nap winner Swanky Princess, who is a full sister to grade 3-placed stakes winner Wynn Time and multiple stakes winner Cinco Star. The mare also has a yearling by Bind named Bye Bye Big Baby and produced a colt this year by Jay Gatsby.
My Heavy Son is raced by Iron Oaks Stable and trained by Patrick Mouton. He was unplaced in his first two starts and found a late kick in his third start that propelled him to the win. His final time was 1:07.35.
Longtime Louisiana trainer Eddie Johnston died Aug. 28 following a battle with cancer. He was 74.
Close friend and fellow horse trainer Sturges Ducoing remembered Johnston as a “true friend, very loyal, and totally, totally a family man. He lived for his family—his wife, his kids, and his grandkids—did everything that he could possibly could for them.”
Johnston got his start on the racetrack hotwalking for his uncle, Alex Johnston. He began training in 1981, according to Equibase statistics, and remained a trainer throughout his life. Through Aug. 31, Johnston had won 558 races from 2,988 starts and his horses over the years have collected almost $13 million in earnings. His top horses included Louisiana’s 2015 champion 3-year-old filly Pacific Pink and Louisiana’s 2003 champion older horse Zarb’s Luck.
Hurricane Ida, which battered New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast Aug. 29, damaged portions of Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, though no on-site injuries were reported.
Photographs forwarded by Fair Grounds president Doug Shipley show a mangled tote board, a downed lighting pole, and roof and wall damage to numerous barns.
“The team at Fair Grounds continues to assess the extensive damage to the property as a result of the impact of Hurricane Ida,” he said in a statement. “While there will be much necessary repair in preparation for our Thoroughbred racing season in November, we are most grateful that our Quarter Horse meet had been relocated this year and therefore there were no horses were on property.
The recent COVID-19-related cancellation of this fall’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival should leave full turf racing opportunities this fall and winter at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, according to Bernard Chatters, president of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
Fair Grounds annually hosts the music festival, an event known as Jazz Fest, typically in the spring, drawing thousands onto its infield area and leaving its grass course in need of recovery. The event, a staple in New Orleans tourism, was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, and this year it was postponed until the fall before festival officials scrapped it Aug. 8, citing “exponential growth” of COVID-19 cases in the area. It is scheduled to resume next year from April 29-May 8.
Mo Tom and El Deal, both freshman stallions standing at the Adcock family’s Red River Farms in Coushatta, La., were represented by their first black-type winners Aug. 21 at Louisiana Downs.
In the second race of the day, Wholelottamo took the $50,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes for Mo Tom, and two races later True Deal eked out a victory in the $50,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile Stakes to represent El Deal. Both 2-year-olds were bred in Louisiana by Cloyce Clark Jr.
The Texas track experienced their highest live and export handles since 2006.
Lone Star Park concluded its 25th Thoroughbred Racing season July 11 handling a daily average of $1,693,866 in merged handle (Live on-track plus Export) and a daily average of $1,459,096 specifically in export, over the 48-day meet, which was their most since 2006 in both categories, not including last year’s unique pandemic season.
Average daily grandstand attendance on weekends and holidays for the meet was just over 4,000 per day, which, when compared to similar days, was only a 4% decline from 2019.