Texas tracks lose out to richer ones in other states, sup­port­ers say

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By John Ma­her and Tim Ea­ton

Manor Downs, the old­est parimutuel horse rac­ing track in Texas, ap­pears to be on its last legs.

The track has not ap­plied for any live rac­ing dates next year and is plan­ning to end simul­cast­ing on July 25.

“It’s not 100 per­cent, but I’d say it’s 99 per­cent sure,” said Manor’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Howard Phillips, who has in­formed the Texas Rac­ing Com­mis­sion of those plans.

“We’ve had world cham­pi­ons that have won their first cham­pi­onship at Manor,” said Rob Wer­stler, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Texas Quar­ter Horse As­so­ci­a­tion. “As far as Manor (is concerned), not rac­ing there is dev­as­tat­ing to the quar­ter horse breed­ing in­dus­try.”

Manor has been bat­tered by the stalled econ­omy and a se­ri­ous slump in the Texas horse rac­ing in­dus­try.

“It’s off 40 per­cent since 2008,” Phillips said of the track’s busi­ness, adding that losses this year were close to $1 mil­lion. Manor raced a to­tal of 14 days on week­ends in March and early April, Thor­ough­breds and quar­ter horses have raced at Manor Downs, but its hey­day was years ago. Now, the larger . purses are in other states. down from 18 in re­cent years.

“It’s just smart busi­ness to get out of the front lines and onto the side­lines,” Phillips said in an in­ter­view Mon­day, adding that there may be other good uses for the prop­erty, in­clud­ing as a train­ing fa­cil­ity or a con­cert venue.

Be­fore pari-mutuel bet­ting was le­gal­ized in Texas, Manor Downs was per­haps best known for show­cas­ing artists such as Ste­vie Ray Vaughan, the Grate­ful Dead and Johnny Cash. When leg­is­la­tion did pass, it was the first track to hit the ground run­ning, and it re­cently con­cluded its 21st sea­son of live pari-mutuel rac­ing.

Phillips pointed out that other Class 2 tracks in the state didn’t last nearly as long.

“We’ve been there the whole

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