The Sport Of Kings!
Article By: Hal Lundgren
Global spectators recognize horse racing as the sport of kings.
At Sam Houston Race Park, it has often been the sport of obstacles.
Opened with bold plans in 1994, SHRP began with ambitious
purse levels. When wagering levels could not support high
purse pay-outs, SHRP had to re-tool.
There was an institutional hurdle, too. Selling racing to folks who
grew up on football is still a process.
The most dramatic challenge might have been COVID, which closed
SHRP for 2 1/2 months and restrained attendance afterward.
Those challenges gave Dwight Berube opportunities to prove the
constant value of his calm nature and perceptive leadership. He did it
as a department head, then as SHRP's man in charge.
Now the successful leader who took on each obstacle is retiring at 66.
SHRP's parent company, Penn Entertainment, continues to search for a
successor. Though Berube will give up his SHRP office in two weeks, he'll
remain a consultant to the track.
"I'll be available whenever I'm asked," Berube said.
Berube came to racing with Harry M. Stevens, the food and beverage
service company. At 16, he went to work for Stevens at Penn National
Race Course in Grantville, PA. That location was the starting place of
what is now Penn Entertainment.
Still with Stevens, Berube became general manager of Atlantic City
Race Course at age 24.
Stevens brought him to Houston 1992 and put him in charge of
Astrodome food and beverage services. He soon read about plans
for Sam Houston’s 1994 opening.
Still with Stevens, he became SHRP's food and beverage director.
Believing that "the whole pie is better than a slice," he negotiated Sam
Houston's independent takeover of its food and beverage operations.
He oversaw much of the track's operation aside from food and beverage.
Then, in 2017, Berube took charge of SHRP as vice president and
If one characteristic stands out at the track, it's customer service.
People who visit other tracks claim that Sam Houston and Saratoga
offer the industry's most courteous tellers and service staff.
"That's what we emphasize," Berube said. "When guests come here,
we want it always to be a friendly, clean, safe experience. We work to
keep it that way."
What's next for Berube?
He will invest much of his time with his wife and three granddaughters.
He will also pay more attention to his favorite baseball team, the New York
"I have a Yankees' sticker on my back windshield," he said. "People
have made obscene hand gestures when I'm driving, but that doesn't stop me
from loving the Yankees."
As Berube walks out the door, the proper hand movement should be
vigorous clapping for a job well done.