THE PERPLEXING SITUATION IN THE LONE STAR STATE (PART 1)

Texas is an extraordinarily appealing venue for doing business because of the “can do” culture of the people who live there, low taxes, and elected officials who put out a welcome sign.  In recent years, The Lone Star State has attracted a plethora of companies that relocated from less friendly environs.  In the 21st century, Texas-based companies have made the state the hands-down U. S. leader in creating jobs, as entrepreneurs have launched start-up ventures and executives have grown existing firms.

Texas truly lives up to its image of independence and self-sufficiency, a place of unbounded opportunity for people who take chances and work smart and hard.  This is what is so perplexing about the neglect or even antipathy that some state elected officials have shown toward horse racing.  For instance, Texans are not allowed to freely engage in advance deposit wagering or pari-mutuel betting on historical races and a state senator is trying to defund the Texas Horse Racing Commission.

This is not the way of the Texas that reveres consumer sovereignty, the idea fundamental to free societies that people, rather than government, can choose what is in their own best interests.  Moreover, the bureaucratic and legal obstacles imposed on horse racing are glaringly uncharacteristic of Texas.

Horse racing and breeding have a storied history in Texas, and the enterprise embodies the risk-taking value that made Texas great in industries like oil/gas, ranching, and more recently in high technology.

The famous King Ranch under the leadership of Robert Kleberg bred and foaled two Kentucky Derby winners–Assault and Middleground–and the former is one of only twelve 3-year-old colts to win the coveted and elusive American Triple Crown.

Midland was the home of several owners of champion racehorses:  Ralph Lowe campaigned the great Gallant Man in the late 1950s; Fred Turner, Jr. won the Kentucky Derby with Tomy Lee in 1959; and Dorothy & Pamela Scharbauer (Fred Turner’s daughter and granddaughter, respectively) also won the Kentucky Derby, with Alysheba in 1987.  Clarence Scharbauer, Dorothy’s husband, bred and raced Thoroughbreds until his death in 2014, and his heirs still breed racehorses at Valor Farm in Point Pilot.

Many other accomplished sons and daughters of Texas have in some way been involved with horse racing, including, for example, Josephine Abercrombie, John B. Connally, the Farish family (Lane’s End Farm in Hempstead), Nelson Bunker Hunt, Robert McNair (owner of the Houston Texans), and Robert Strauss (president of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club until he was 94).

In addition to these well-known Texans, horse racing in the state is the livelihood for numerous small business people, who don’t have high name recognition but work long hours and employ people, pay taxes, and use the services of countless other small Texas businesses like veterinarians, farmers, feed retailers, and accountants.

If the best-known animal symbol of Texas is the Longhorn, as depicted by “hook-em-horns,” the horse would not be far behind.  And racehorses, both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, are deeply ingrained in the narrative of Texas.

Horse racing in Texas does not need special treatment, merely equal treatment with other industries.  If only that Texas elected officials would allow the horse racing agribusiness to operate under the same free-market principles that created and sustains the enviable Lone Star economic success story.  Let racing sink or swim on its own, but give it a fair chance.

One would think that any conscientious state elected official would try to bolster a significant sporting and commercial endeavor like horse racing and breeding instead of impeding it.

(Part 2 of this article will be published soon.)

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