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A brief history ... Ups and Downs at Bandera Downs

By Carol Wier

The Bandera Downs horse racetrack, which first opened its doors in 1965, is located on Highway 16 just south of Bandera and is not operational at this time.

If you've ever seen the horseracing movie “Secretariat,” you can well imagine the excitement in Bandera in July of 1965. That's when the new non-betting horse racing facility, originally called “Lost Valley Downs,” first opened its doors. One thousand people attended that first race on the new seven-eighths of a mile oval track. The facility remained open for two years, and then closed after the 1967 season. It was sold in 1984 and later reopened as Bandera Downs.
After the Texas legislature legalized parimutuel betting on July 6, 1990, Bandera Downs became the second parimutuel track in Texas. It was licensed as a Class II track, which meant the maximum number of days the racetrack could operate each year was 44. On Sept. 2, 1990, it had its highest recorded attendance of 7,814 people.
Bandera Downs was only open for five years as a pari-mutuel track, with a high of $35.8 million dollars in gambling. When the new Class I Retama Park opened just 40 minutes away, attendance at the Bandera racetrack immediately declined, forcing it to close its doors in 1995.
It was sold at auction the next year and renamed the Bandera Downs Complex and used to host concerts, auto shows, et cetera, but it soon closed again. It was sold in 1998 and changed hands once again in 2004.
Notables associated with Bandera Downs include well-known horse trainers Dave Correll and Jim Hudson. Jim Hudson played safety for the New York Jets, and helped them win the Super Bowl in1969. (He was also a roommate of Joe Namath!) After retiring from football, Correll trained horses for 30 years before his death in Austin in 2013 at the age of 70.
Other famous names associated with the track include announcer Don Alexander and jockeys, Billy Owens and Juan Bartolome.
Briefly, the track became a horse training facility, but that also fell through.