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If your looking to hit all the tracks in Texas, get ready to put some miles on that rental. The tracks are roughly centered in three cities, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, which is a nice triangle. The problem is it's a big triangle, on the map they seem close but Texas is one big state.

If you start in Dallas you can visit Lone Star and Trinity Meadows, which is idle but still standing. Don't forget the Book Depository or AT&T Stadium.  From there a 240 mile drive to Houston and Sam Houston Park. Leaving there you head west toward San Antonio about 200 miles away, on the way you'll find Manor Downs, another defunct but standing facility. Continuing on to San Antonio, you can rest up at the Alamo before tackling Retama Park and The Gillespie County Fair, both which are still in operation. To finish the trip there's Bandera Downs, vacant but still standing.

Your chances of hitting live racing in Texas are diminishing, where a few years ago there was almost year round racing, with split thoroughbred and quarter horse meets. Today those numbers are dropping and there are times when no live racing is going on. Looking to continue the trip? Next stop Sunland Park, on the Texas border a short 560 miles away!   

If you grew up, with television in the fifties and sixties, with every other program being a western featuring a cowboy and his horse, being somewhere from Texas, that it had to be the horse racing capitol of the world. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Although pari-mutual wagering was legalized in 1933, it was short lived.

Probably like most other states, looking for relief from the great depression, Texas looked to legalized gambling. In anticipation of favorable legislation, Arlington Downs opened between Forth Worth and Dallas, in 1929. Already in operation, it became the first pari-mutual site in Texas in 1933. Soon after additional tracks were added, Alamo Downs in San Antonio, Epsom Downs in Houston, and Galveston Downs. In 1937, racing in Texas, ended it's short run. 

In what appears to be another run-in with a governor and race track owner, pari-mutual racing was once again illegal in Texas. The new governor of Texas and  the owner of Arlington Downs had some sort of dispute which led to racing being repealed. It would be fifty years before it returned.

Texas, once again allowed pari-mutual wagering when an amendment to the Texas constitution was approved in 1987. In 1989 an existing quarter horse track in Brady, G. Rollie White Downs held the first pari-mutual race in Texas in over fifty years, this event drew a lot of attention to the obscure site, but it's glory was short lived. Within three months the track that wasn't really close to anything shut down, but others were waiting in the wings.

Within six months a second track opened in Bandera, followed shortly by a track in Manor. Both tracks under Texas law were licensed as class II tracks (class II tracks can hold no more than 44 days of racing a year) and were primarily quarter horse venues. In May of 1991, a third and last class II track opened in Weatherford, outside of Fort Worth. In the mid nineties, both the Bandera and Weatherford tracks were out of business, the track in Manor lasted till 2010, but they were all doomed when the class I, tracks begin to show up.

It took a few years, but by 1994 the first class I track opened in Houston, followed the next year by the San Antonio entry. in 1997 the grand daddy of them all Lone Star Park opened in Grand Prairie, in the suburbs of Dallas. Racing in Texas peaked in 2004 when the Breeders Cup was held at the Lone Star oval. In recent years, without the benefit of a racino format, the Texas tracks have seen downturns in handle and attendance. All three tracks have cut thoroughbred dates and added a quarter horse meet.

If your a fan of on-line wagering, then Texas is probably not the place for you as that form of wagering is not permitted in the state.