News and Notes for December 18, 2015

TTA’s online auction of 2016 stallion breedings closes today, December 18, at 5pm Central.  New stallions have recently been added, including Moro Tap, so check out the list and place your bid at…/online-stallion-auction/.

It has just been announced that Lt. Governor Patrick has replaced Legislative Budget Board member Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D – McAllen), a champion for the Texas horse industry, with Carlos Uresti (D – San Antonio), who has a district office in Eagle Pass, also the home of the Lucky Eagle Casino operated by Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas.  The Tribe
and bingo interests filed a lawsuit in Travis County last year seeking to stop historical racing. That is the case now being appealed by the horsemen to the 3rd Court of Appeals.

As reported in the Daily Racing Form, the Texas Racing Commission kept historical racing rules on the books at a lengthy meeting Tuesday, but will revisit the topic of repealing those rules as early as February.

There were two separate votes on historical racing issues. The commission first voted 4-4 with one abstention not to repeal the rules it put in place in 2014. The panel later voted to republish the proposed rules that would repeal historical racing for a 30-day public comment period in a move that enables the commission to take up the vote to repeal the rules at a future meeting. The comment period opens January 1, and the next likely commission meeting will be the second Tuesday in February.

Also at the meeting, the new chairman of the commission, Rolando Pablos, directed the agency’s executive director to formulate a plan to “responsibly” close down agency operations in the event commission funding beyond a February deadline is not granted by the state’s legislative budget board (LBB). The commission is currently operating on a temporary funding plan.

The funding issue arose this past summer after the commission did not repeal historical racing rules during an August vote on the matter. About a week later, racing in Texas was shut down for a day when the LBB failed to grant funding for the commission’s administrative expenses by a fiscal deadline. A temporary plan was then announced enabling the commission to operate through November 30. Last month, that plan was extended through February 29.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is among the state’s politicians who have urged the commission to repeal historical racing, and he issued a statement on the action taken Tuesday.

“I am extremely disappointed that the Texas Racing Commission failed to repeal historical racing,” he said in the statement. “Previously, a state district court judge ruled historical racing rules adopted by the commission exceeded the commission’s authority granted to them by the Texas Legislature. Members of the legislature also expressed their opposition in a letter to the commission stating they did not have the authority to enact this rule.”

Patrick also discussed the vote on historical racing: “Recently, the governor appointed three members to the commission,” he said in part in the statement. “Two of those members voted to repeal historical racing and one did not…”

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the TTA sent a letter to Patrick noting that an appeal is pending concerning the judge’s ruling on historical racing, and requesting a meeting with him.

Ballots were tabulated earlier this week for the TTA Board of Directors election and we offer our congratulations to the following candidates elected to serve 3-year terms as At-large directors: John Adger (incumbent), Bethe Deal, Terry Eoff, Phil Leckinger (incumbent) and David Stephens DVM (incumbent).

Jim Harris was elected to represent the northeast region and Jerry Moore was elected to represent the south region of Texas.

Many thanks to all the candidates.

A pair of Accredited Texas-breds will compete in a field of 7 in the $50,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes for 2-year-olds going 6 furlongs at Fair Grounds on Saturday.

Bred by Fletcher Properties Inc. and trained by Michael Stidham, 4/1 D.Shifflett (Valid Expectations – Smokin N Jokin) races for owners Steven Perlick, Feel The Thunder Stable and Haynes Stables LLC.

Karl Broberg will saddle David L. Davis’ homebred Taylors Angiel (Private Vow – Itisi), who has been given 6/1 odds.

Also at Fair Grounds, Supermason (Grasshopper – Folksy) and Witt Six (Drums of Thunder – Tait Hill) are part of a field of 7 going a mile and 70 yards in the $60,000 Tenacious Stakes. Bret Calhoun will send out Supermason for owner Brad Grady.  The 3-year old gelding bred in partnership by W. S. Farish has a career record of 12-4-2-1 with earnings of $143,755 and has been given odds of 5/1.

Henry Witt’s homebred Witt Six, listed at 12/1, boasts a career record of 20-5-4-4 and $131,801 in earnings and will be saddled by Jerry Gourneau.

Good luck to all.

Important tax incentives for horse owners, including an extension of the three-year tax depreciation for all racehorses through 2016, were passed by Congress yesterday as part of comprehensive budget and tax legislation.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 maintains the three-year recovery period for racehorse purchases that has been a top legislative priority for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) since the provision’s initial enactment as part of the 2008 Farm Bill. Most recently, the NTRA successfully secured inclusion of three-year depreciation in the 2014 tax extenders package that expired at the end of 2014.

The provision allows taxpayers to depreciate, on a three-year schedule, racehorses 24 months of age and younger when purchased and placed into service, as opposed to a seven-year schedule. According to the NTRA, the accelerated schedule better reflects the length of a typical racehorse’s career and is more equitable for owners.

The PATH Act also retroactively extends two other provisions that spur investment in racehorses and depreciable farm equipment.

“Bonus depreciation” will remain set at 50% and may be used by business owners who purchase and place in service qualified new depreciable property. Yearlings that an owner purchases and puts into a training program are one example of eligible property. Bonus depreciation is set at 50% for 2015, 2016, and 2017, at 40% for 2018 and at 30% for 2019.

The “Section 179 expense allowance” will be set at $500,000, with a $2 million threshold for qualified new or used property purchased and placed in service by small business owners in many industries. Total purchases of qualified property that exceed $2 million reduce the taxpayer’s expense allowance dollar for dollar. Broodmares may be eligible for expensing and are an example of used property because of their prior use as a racehorse or broodmare. The comprehensive budget and tax legislation will make the Section 179 expense allowance incentive permanent at this level.

The pre-race protocol of Thoroughbreds racing at next year’s Remington Park summer-fall meet will include a quick stop on a scale where their weight will be recorded and that information will be provided to the public before the race.

Track president Scott Wells said it’s simple information to collect and provides handicappers an extra tool while giving interesting information to new fans.

“It’s one of the keys to transparency,” Wells said. “Secondly it’s a very important handicapping factor. And finally, it’s something that even novices can relate to.”

Under the plan, horses will be weighed at a uniform time at the track’s receiving barn and the weight will be recorded and relayed to the track’s TV crew to be reported during the post parade and on the simulcast signal. Wells said he is working with Equibase to have weight information recorded in previous Remington starts included in the track program and will find other options to provide that information if it’s not ultimately available in the program.

As a former trainer and in his years working for tracks in the U.S. and overseas, Wells believes horses have an ideal weight and any gain or loss of more than 15 pounds from that ideal weight is significant.

Wells said the weight information also could be used for scientific studies of issues important to racing, like race-day medication administration. Wells said based on Remington’s previous foray into weighing horses, he noticed that first-time Salix users typically lost 20 to 25 pounds.

He also plans to add weight reporting at Lone Star Park and he hopes other tracks pick up on the idea and weight reporting eventually becomes standard in past performances.

NOTES: Please share this superb article by Gary West about the current racing situation in Texas: … The 2016 American Racehorse Stallion Register is now online and in the process of mailing. You can check it out at …The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) approved an expansion of conditions for the claim void rule, which would allow claims to be voided in cases of bleeding from the nostrils. Previously, the rule allowed voids in the event of horse death or lameness… The Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) announced that its Uniform Classification Guidelines for Foreign Substances and Recommended Penalties and Model Rule has been updated going into 2016; see