LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen June  20, 2024


Many people in our industry have demanding jobs, but it’s about time we give a shout out to Chris Warren who oversees racing for both Delta Downs in Vinton and Evangeline Downs in Opelousas. That means he is in charge of four live racing seasons as both racetracks run dedicated meets for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.

From Texas to New Mexico

Warren was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, but his family moved to Ruidoso, New Mexico when he was 13 years-old. As a teen, his dad, Bill, helped him create a tipsheet, which he sold at various locations in Ruidoso. As much as he enjoyed his success as a handicapper, Warren chose to further his education after graduating from high school. He attended New Mexico State University in Las Cruces before transferring to the University of Arizona in Tucson where he enrolled in the RaceTrack Industry Program (RTIP).

It is the only program in the country to offer a four-year Bachelor of Science degree preparing its graduates for a career in the racetrack industry. Following his graduation from the RTIP program in 1981, Warren worked in the racing office at The Downs of Santa Fe. That was a minor career stepping-stone, but a major personal milestone as that is where he met his wife, Patricia.

Warren had tenures at Delta Downs, as assistant racing secretary before becoming the racing secretary at Paducah Downs in Kentucky. At the age of 28, Warren was hired as the racing secretary at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. He faced one of his toughest early challenges; persuading horsemen to ship to the Shakopee, located southwest of Minneapolis. The track had only run Quarter Horses for one year when Warren arrived, but he felt that with a concerted outreach to horsemen, that growth was certainly possible. Decades later, Canterbury Park is one of the nation’s most popular and successful racetracks.

Three Decades in the Biz

Warren returned to Louisiana in 2001 as director of racing at Delta Downs. In the Fall of 2013, Boyd Gaming, who owns both Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs, announced that Warren would become director of racing at both Boyd racetracks.

“I drive back and forth weekly,” explains Warren. “It’s a little more time consuming and I can’t spend as much time as I would like to.”

Warren relies on racing secretaries John Simon in Vinton and Corey Veazey in Opelousas to make the operation run smoothly.

“We have good racing offices at both tracks, but it’s kind of like trying to coach two teams,” Warren added.

There is tremendous mutual respect between Warren and the horsemen he works with. Trainers rely on the racing secretary to write a variety of races with conditions to suit all levels of competition. Warren knows the importance of spending time on the backside and being accessible to the men and women who make their living conditioning racehorses.

“He’s a good guy and does a great job,” said trainer Bobby Martinez. “I give him credit for being accessible. I can call him and feel that he will try to help the horsemen out.”

Trey Ellis adds his endorsement.

“Chris has helped me from day one,” explained Ellis. “He works for the horsemen and is behind us. It’s not easy driving back and forth between the two tracks, but he still finds time to feed the cats in the barn area!”

Quarter Horse owner Oscar Rhone is another member of the Louisiana racing community to acknowledge the efforts of Warren.

“I find him to be a very pleasant individual,” stated Rohne. “It’s not possible to please everyone, but Chris tries very hard. It’s no secret that the casino is the revenue generator for the racetrack and benefits horsemen in purses when it thrives. But Chris looks out for the horsemen and places a high priority on keeping the track surface in good shape.”

Warren respects horsemen, but knows that keeping everyone happy is a truly daunting task.

“They have a very demanding job,” he acknowledges. “I couldn’t get up at 5:00 am every day! Trying to understand the needs of horsemen also means handling complaints. It’s tough at times, but I’m one of those guys who doesn’t let it well up. Sometimes you just have to say thanks, take it easy and see you later.”

Memorable Horses and People in Racing

It’s pretty much impossible to endure the demands of working in the racing industry unless you love and appreciate horses. Warren has plenty of memories, dating back to his teen years.

“I bet a week’s paycheck on Moon Lark in the 1978 All American Futurity,” said Warren. “In his trial, he stumbled badly and still qualified. I figured that with a clean trip, he could win.”

He remembers taking a job at Santa Anita as the assistant clerk of scales in 1988.

“I walked into the jocks room and Bill Shoemaker was sitting there,” he said. “My reaction was ‘holy moly; look at this!’ Growing up in Ruidoso, I got to meet all the legendary riders including Kenny Hart, Jerry Nicodemus, Jerry Burgess and Jacky Martin. Great memories of those guys.”

Next month, Delta Downs will host the richest race of their season, the $700,000 (estimated) Lee Berwick Futurity (RG1). Warren hosts Betty Berwick, the widow of Delta Downs founder and AQHA and LQHBA Hall of Fame inductee, Lee Berwick.

“It is always a pleasure to have Mrs. Berwick and family members here for our big night of racing,” said Warren.

And while the demands of his job keep him from watching all the races, he has seen some of the best Quarter Horses in the country run at Delta Downs.

“I would have to say seeing Jet Black Patriot and Vals Fortune win the Lee Berwick Futurity stand out for me,” he said. “I enjoyed watching Open Me a Corona win the first LQHBA Louisiana Million; that was pretty cool as well.”

No Plans for Retirement Anytime Soon

Steve Kuypers is vice president and general manager at Delta Downs and has the utmost respect for the role that Warren plays for Boyd Gaming.

"We are very fortunate to have Chris Warren overseeing our live race meets at both Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs,” said Kuypers. “There are few people in the industry that can handle the demands of not just one, but two racing offices. Chris does that for Boyd Gaming; he's the best in the business!"

Warren celebrated his 60th birthday in January and has no plans at this stage of his career for retirement. However, he and Patricia have a home in Ruidoso, which will likely be their full-time residence in the future.

“I get back there five or six times a year,” explained Warren. “I love the weather, especially in the summer. When the temperature hits 80 degrees, they consider it a scorcher. Let’s just say that the Louisiana heat and humidity are two things I will not miss when I do retire!”

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The LQHBA Insider is a monthly feature written by Martha Claussen for www.lqhba.com. She served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.