Off and Running

For ten years, Martha Claussen has been the public relations director at Sam Houston Race Park. She is that rarest of pr people: Gets information to journalists quickly, is very knowledgeable about the industry she represents, steps aside after setting up interviews and doesn’t fudge on her facts. She conducts betting classes at the track and her tip sheet on each day’s races is often dead-on. Despite running around like crazy, she still manages to be funny, pleasant and efficient.

Coady Photography

Horse racing is not an easy business, especially in Texas. Despite lobbying the Texas Legislature, the industry in this state has not been able to convince anyone to allow the kind of casino gambling that Louisiana tracks offer on site. As a result, there has been a rather steady stream of trainers and their horses moving to states like Louisiana where horse racing purses, bolstered by other gambling proceeds, are so much higher.

Sam Houston, desperate to remain a profitable business, has increasingly turned to concert entertainment as a way to attract crowds. It’s built a new stage in the infield. Its officials have brought in people experienced in the music entertainment side of the business, and this weekend it seemed to be paying off as the stands began filling up only late in the race card on a night that offered Merle Haggard.

Claussen is a trooper, but it’s pretty clear her main interest is in the horses, not the after racing entertainment.

Okay, this is reading like an obit, but it’s not.

Today is Claussen’s last day representing the racetrack. This Thursday, she takes over the horse racing column for the Houston Chronicle, which is showing exceedingly good sense by employing her. After ten years, her contacts in the industry are extensive. She knows horses, jockeys, trainers and owners, and so here’s a free tip for bettors: read her and improve your odds. – Margaret Downing

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