TTA Releases Video Honoring 2020 Texas Champions and Human Award Winners

The Texas Thoroughbred Association has released an online video honoring the 2020 Texas Champions and human award winners. Traditionally the TTA would have an in-person awards ceremony, but one will not be held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  


“While we are disappointed in not having an awards ceremony this year, we are proud of the accomplishments of Texas-breds and Texas horsemen last year, and we are pleased to honor them with this video,” said Mary Ruyle, executive director of the TTA. “Congratulations go out to all the award winners.” 


The 2020 Texas Champion horses were previously announced, and those horses are highlighted in the video along with four human award winners that were not previously announced. The video can be viewed on the TTA’s Facebook page and at


The T.I. “Pops” Harkins Award for lifetime achievement was awarded to Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale and Joe Straus Jr.  


McIngvale has found great success in both the business world and on the racetrack. His Houston-based Gallery Furniture has sponsored numerous stakes races over the years and frequently features racing-related promotions, including one involving the 2021 Kentucky Derby that helped raise the profile of the sport to non-racing fans. He won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with Runhappy and now stands the stallion and often sponsors racing events to promote him. He is also a noted philanthropist and has supported numerous charitable efforts within and beyond the world of racing. 


Straus is one of the founding fathers of modern Texas horse racing. He was instrumental in the passage of pari-mutuel wagering laws in the state and is a co-founder of Retama Park near San Antonio. Straus also serves as chairman of the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame, of which he is also an inductee. Also a successful breeder and owner, Straus has worked hard to ensure a level playing field for horsemen and served on the Texas A&M Target 2000 committee and spearheaded efforts for the Texas Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to serve as the lead agency to test competition racehorses. 


The Allen Bogan Memorial Award for TTA member of the year was awarded to Bill Tracy and Martha Claussen.  


Tracy is a longtime TTA member and Texas horseman who worked at JEH Stallion Station in New Mexico and Oak Tree Ranch in Bandera, Texas, and presently is farm manager at Mike Grossman’s Eureka Thoroughbred Farm in Fredericksburg, Texas. He has served on the TTA board for a combined total of nearly 20 years, and he has also served on the board of the TTA’s Paddock Foundation and as president of the Texas Thoroughbred Educational Fund. In his work to support TTA and Texas racing, he has testified before the Texas Racing Commission and spent numerous hours working with legislators to highlight the importance of horse racing to our state. 


Claussen has worked to promote Texas horse racing for nearly 25 years after being hired as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park in 1997. Since then, she has distributed countless news releases and photos to better inform the media and general public about the special people and horses in our sport. While many news releases just list out basic information, Claussen always goes the extra mile to include quotes from the winning connections and other details to recognize the effort it takes to win a stakes race. She is among the most active and recognized voices on social media when it comes to Texas horse racing, and she is a familiar face nationwide from her frequent winner’s circle interviews. 


Following is the complete list of the previously announced 2020 champion horses: 


2-Year-Old Filly: Con Lima (by Commissioner) • Owner: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Graffeo, Joseph F., Del Toro, Eric Nikolaus and Johnson, Troy • Breeder: Lisa Kuhlmann 

2-Year-Old Colt/Gelding: Hulen (by Tapiture) • Owner: L. William and Corinne Heiligbrodt, Madaket Stables LLC and Spendthrift Farm LLC • Breeder: Keith Asmussen 

3-Year-Old Filly: Boerne (by Fed Biz) • Owner: De Luca and Sons Stable • Breeder: Randi and Eric Moreau-Sipiere 

3-Year-Old Colt/Gelding: Gold Pilot (by My Golden Song) • Owner: Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch • Breeder: Ronald and Margaret Ellerbee 

Older Filly/Mare: Ima Discreet Lady (by Discreet Cat) • Owner: Duane Coker and Raymond Todd White • Breeder: Larry S. Huntsinger 

Co-Champion Older Horse: Sunlit Song (by My Golden Song) • Owner: Carolyn Barnett and Becky Harding • Breeder: Carolyn Barnett 

Texas Champion Claimer: Meme Jo (by Too Much Bling) • Owner: John L. Pierce II • Breeder: Jeanne Bruce 

Champion Broodmare: My Silver Song (by My Golden Song) 

Horse of the Year and Co-Champion Older Horse: Redatory (by Oratory) • Owner/Breeder: James Wessel 

James McIngvale: Where You Bet Matters

James McIngvale with Runhappy at Claiborne | Courtesy of Gallery Furniture

As handicappers and racing enthusiasts across America prepare to dive into this week’s sensational Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, keep this in mind: Where you bet matters.

It took 25-plus years of horse ownership and a $2.4-million wager for me to fully appreciate the huge difference it makes where a bet is placed. It was a wake-up call for me, and it should be for you. Everyone in horse racing whenever possible should put their money through the windows or self-bet machines at the racetrack.

If you’re like I was, you’ve never really thought about how each dollar gets chopped up. A bet is a bet, you probably think. You get the same payoff if you bet on-track, through simulcasting or online. Even at a casino that is booking the bets, you get track odds, albeit with caps.


But the return to the industry–for the owners whose horses put on the show and for the track that provides the venue–wildly varies depending on where a bet is made. For the long-term viability of the sport, those who work in and/or love horse racing should learn where the money goes and take seriously betting where it maximizes purses.

I was committed to placing at least $2 million on Essential Quality in the Kentucky Derby in order to cover my Gallery Furniture promotion where customers would get their money back if the Derby favorite won. The casinos worked hard to get my action, which they had received for promotions tied to the outcome of the World Series and Super Bowl. It was an eye-opener to learn what it meant in additional dollars to horse owners if I made the largest Kentucky Derby bet in history at the home of the Derby instead of a casino or online.

I lost my $2.4-million total in win bets when Essential Quality finished fourth but sold a boatload of mattresses and had a lot of customers snapping their fingers during the Run for the Roses. But a big winner was Churchill Downs’ purse account for horsemen, which accrued $240,000 from my bets alone.

Purses are the lifeblood of American racing–it’s what makes our racing unique and is vital to its sustainability. There’s a substantial difference in the money that goes to horse owners if a bet is placed onsite at the track or if it’s bet through an online platform, simulcasting, a casino or offshore. It also makes a big difference to the track staging the races, with the significant costs entailed in building, maintaining and staffing the facility.

Had I made my wager in Las Vegas, where the casinos do not have a contract with Churchill Downs and therefore could not bet into the parimutuel pools, no money would have flowed back to Kentucky horsemen. If bet anywhere but on track, at best the funding to purses would have been about half. At worst, zero.

If we care about the industry, the last place we should bet is offshore or with casinos that book the bets and don’t contribute anything to our mutuel pools or purse account. Offshore sites might offer lucrative rebates–but they can do that because they have no outlay for the cost of putting on the product.

I’m not bashing reputable online betting operations or simulcasting. The pandemic proved how vital ADW operations are to racing, how we were able to stay in business with spectator-less racing while other sports were shut down.

Millennials’ and Generation Z’s office is their phone, so ADWs are expanding our reach but at the same time should pay an equitable rate to racetracks and horsemen. Kudos to ADWs that have worked with various tracks and horsemen’s groups in California, Kentucky and elsewhere to make sure ADW betting on-site returns the same amount to purses as if the bet were placed with a mutuel clerk or self-bet machine.

Of course, if we’re asking horseplayers and racing participants to bet at the track where possible, tracks likewise must make their facilities and the experience inviting for fans. Every day, and not just on select days.

Horse racing has a great opportunity to step up our game and attract new fans. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness ratings showed people are interested in horse racing. Heck, my Gallery Furniture promotion shows that the Kentucky Derby and racing resonate with the guy and gal on the street.

We’ve got to attract younger people. We need to attract the followers of Barstool Sports, Bleacher Report, Action Network. We need to embrace sports-betting content.

There is no easy fix. It takes commitment, effort and ingenuity. But our sport and industry are worth it. Excluding football games, the Kentucky Derby was the third-most watched sporting event since the pandemic hit in March 2020, trailing only the NCAA men’s basketball championship game won by Baylor and Gonzaga’s semifinal victory over UCLA, according to Sports Media Watch. That’s impressive.

The Kentucky Derby, Triple Crown and horse racing are still relevant. But you’ve got to flame the fire–and also be smart about where we bet. Cumulatively, it makes a huge difference.

Jim McIngvale, also known as Mattress Mack, is an entrepreneur, furniture mogul, philanthropist and horse owner based in Houston. McIngvale campaigned 2015 GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and Eclipse Award champion male sprinter Runhappy and has become a major racing sponsor while promoting his horse as a stallion at Claiborne Farm. McIngvale can be reached at (281) 844-1963 or

McIngvale Offers Shelter During Winter Storm

The Houston businessman opened his furniture store to people without power and water.

Thoroughbred owner/breeder, Houston businessman, and philanthropist Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale again opened his main Gallery Furniture store to people in need, this time to city residents seeking refuge from cold, dark homes without safe water to drink.

In an interview Feb. 18 with Michael Strahan on ABC’s Good Morning America, McIngvale said he had almost 1,000 people show up at his Houston, Texas, store and about 300 of them stayed overnight each day Feb. 16-17. Multiple days of freezing temperatures left nearly three million Texans without power Wednesday, with more than a million of them in Houston, according to multiple reports. The state also warned residents that water pressure is so low it might be unsafe to drink. Boil water notices were issued throughout the city.

Read BloodHorse Article