Florida Horsemen’s New President Bill White: A Lifetime of Teaching, Coaching, Training Success Prepared Him To Lead FHBPA During Uncertain Times

Florida Horse Racing Thoroughbred Trainer Bill White is President of the Florida Horsemen FHBPA

Florida HBPA President Bill White (left) and Thoroughbred owner Jack Roberts

There must be something to that teacher/high school sports coach connection when it comes to training racehorses.  It’s served superstar horseman D. Wayne Lukas quite well and it’s also been the platform from which South Florida Thoroughbred conditioner Bill White has reached the mythical 2,000 win milestone, garnering 18 training titles along the way, from Tropical Park, to Hialeah Park–with eight consecutive years leading the trainer standings at Calder Race Course.

During his career, White has found that, like teaching, great coaching requires a love of seeing others succeed:  Helping kids, and even horses find their own definition of success. Having patience with his charges, while holding them accountable for playing their position on the team.

Now White, 62, has added a different kind of player to his coaching repertoire:  Horsemen.

On March 26, 2015, he was elected President of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a statewide organization of some 6,000 Thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers who do business in Florida–some full-time, others part-time.  He will serve a one-year term, during which he plans to focus on Florida’s tenacious regulatory and legislative landscape, a veritable quagmire for horsemen recently as pari-mutuel permitholders, under pressure from Big Gaming entities, seek to “decouple”–that is, untether the legal requirement to conduct live racing in order to continue slot machine and card room operations.

While some would run from shouldering such a tough job, especially given the notoriously headstrong nature of horsemen, and even legislators, who are usually independent, self-made and highly opinionated, White is up to the task and on the muscle to effect lasting change.

Florida Horse Racing

FHBPA President Bill White with Mari George, Indianapolis Speedway Owner

During his first month in office as FHBPA President, he has curtailed his training business to give his all to Florida’s horsemen.  Several times a week, White walks the barns at Gulfstream and Calder, visiting with horsemen to get their thoughts and suggestions on issues, challenges and goals.  He is aggressively pursuing an upgrade and modernization of FHBPA communications, operations and accounting, while already having flown back and forth several times to Tallahassee to testify before various legislative committees, ensuring horsemen’s positions were held firm amid the tumultuous and historic 2015 Session that ended May 1.  It has been a grueling schedule, but he expected nothing less when he volunteered for the job.

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, White moved to Largo, Florida in 1968. After earning his Masters Degree in Special Education from University of South Florida, he taught in Sarasota public schools for six years, while coaching high school baseball at Booker High School.

“The team was winless when I took over.  Three years later, we were district champions,” White recalls.

His grandfather, Lawrence Adolfie, a Thoroughbred owner in Southern Illinois, was the source of his love for horse racing as a young boy.  While still teaching and supplementing his meager income by shoeing horses on the weekends, White was given an opportunity by owner Burton Butker to train at Tampa Bay Downs in 1983.  After a few starts, he had his first winner–a filly named Satu.

“I actually called in sick to school to get the day off so I could ship my filly in from a farm in Sarasota,” he remembers.  “I was so proud of myself that I showed the principal the win picture, completely forgetting I had called in sick!”

White soon resigned from teaching, spending his first three years after that at Tampa Bay Downs in the winter, and then training at Finger Lakes, River Downs and Atlantic City in the summer.  In 1986, he began training full-time in South Florida.

With years logged in service on the FHBPA Board throughout the past decades, White has learned a great deal about the organization.

“I feel that because of my long experience in racing in South Florida I can have a positive influence,” he said.  “It is my goal to create a spirit of unity between the FHBPA, the breeders and Gulfstream Park as we all face an uncertain future.”

White and his wife, Laura, have been married since 1976.   They have two grown children, Lindsey and Jake.

Read News Coverage of Bill White’s Recent Election on @BloodHorse:  http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/91099/white-elected-president-of-florida-hbpa

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Florida Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse Owners, Trainers, Breeders Adopt Unprecedented Therapeutic Horse Racing Medication Uniformity Plan

Yet, Florida Legislature May Not Act to Seal the Deal

April 22, 2014–As national voices have gained strength in the debate on the use of therapeutic medication in horse racing, a group of organizations representing nearly 10,000 Florida Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse owners, trainers and breeders had already taken the unprecedented step of uniting behind a uniform policy endorsed by both the Jockey Club and American Quarter Horse Association.  The proposal was filed in the Florida Legislature as amendment language and is yet awaiting the chance to be approved by lawmakers.

Born of a longstanding working partnership known as “United Florida Horsemen” on both Florida legislative and regulatory issues, the agreement was finalized during early April and includes the approval and endorsement of the following professional associations and organizations:

“Unfortunately, with Florida lawmakers having declared pari-mutuel and other gambling issues to be ‘dead’ for this Session, the legislative authorization needed for this unprecedented consensus will most likely have to wait another year,” explained FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling, a credentialed national authority who has testified before Congress on the issue.

“Florida horsemen have long stated that their goal has always been a set of national rules that gives all racing jurisdictions a level playing field in terms of thresholds and which medications are allowable.  Earlier this month, working with Matt Iuliano from the Jockey Club, we were finally able to draft and submit legislation here in Florida which achieves that goal,” explained FHBPA President Phil Combest.

Among the most notable components of the plan espoused by the United Florida Horsemen was the adoption of Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) Penalty Guidelines and agreement to adopt the Schedule of ARCI Controlled Therapeutic Medications.

“With the power of Florida’s horsemen now in complete alignment, we’re optimistic that the recent commitments toward uniformity by our industry colleagues will continue to drive the national conversation toward state-by-state adoption of both legislation and regulation necessary to make real uniformity a reality,” Stirling said.  “While we wait on Florida’s Legislature to act—hopefully in alignment with the aggressive goals set forth this week by the Stronach Group’s ambitious plan, we’re confident that Florida now sets the standard for true uniformity for others that have yet to come on board.”

Florida’s 2014 Legislative Session concludes on May 2.

To learn more about legislative and regulatory issues facing Florida’s billion-dollar horse racing industry, go to www.FloridaHorsemen.com

Florida Turning Away Quarter Horse Business Happily Received By Australian “Sunshine State”

“American Quarter Horse racing is big business and it takes a country like Australia to recognize its many economic benefits,” said FQHRA Board member Ben Hudson, who is among the group of national AQHA executives called upon by Australia to handle the project. “It’s a conundrum as to why Florida is casting aside the very same opportunity eagerly sought out by a government as large, historic and experienced as Queensland.”

FQHRA/AQHA executives were invited by Queensland’s Premier Campbell Newman to join him in making the announcement about their role in Australia’s new Quarter Horse racing program before a cheering crowd of 75,000 last month in Texas, just before he finalized a Queensland/Texas sister state agreement with Texas Governor Rick Perry.

 
Roughly twice the size of Texas and known as the “Sunshine State” Down-Under, Australia’s Queensland announced in March 2014 that it has commissioned executives from the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA) and its parent, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) to oversee the development and regulation of American Quarter Horse racing for the entirety of Queensland—the world’s sixth-largest sub-national entity.
 
“American Quarter Horse racing is big business and it takes a country like Australia to recognize its many economic benefits,” said FQHRA Board member Ben Hudson, who is among the group of national AQHA executives called upon by Australia to handle the project. “It’s a conundrum as to why Florida is casting aside the very same opportunity eagerly sought out by a government as large, historic and experienced as Queensland.”
 
The Australian Quarter Horse Association is part of the American Quarter Horse Association. 
 
The FQHRA/AQHA executives were invited by Queensland’s Premier Campbell Newman to join him in making the announcement before a cheering crowd of 75,000 last month in Texas, just before he finalized a Queensland/Texas sister state agreement with Texas Governor Rick Perry.  During the presentation, Premier Newman reminded the crowd that Texas is the “spiritual home of Quarter Horse racing.”
 
Guided by the careful oversight and experience of the FQHRA/AQHA executive contingent, Queensland’s new Quarter Horse racing authority will develop accredited competition rules, promote the breeding and acquisition of racing stock and provide for the construction of a safe, regulation racing facility.
 
Multi-million-dollar national American Quarter Horse racing operations have long regarded Florida as ripe for business development.  The consecutive years of growth spearheaded by the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association at Hialeah Park have confirmed the existence of a strong Florida Quarter Horse racing market, but frustrating regulatory disappointments and legal wrangling during the past several years have halted business expansion, with not much encouragement that the yet-existing and prohibitive loopholes deterring that growth will be closed during the 2014 Florida Legislative Session.
 
“The business development capacity that Florida is unwittingly leaving on the table is, instead, being eagerly recruited by those who truly understand the reality of Quarter Horse racing’s economic potential,” Hudson added.  “We hope that our Florida policymakers realize before it’s too late that legislative inaction has not only allowed gambling to continue to expand in Florida without legislative authorization, and worse, at the expense of a lucrative industry that is well recognized and thoroughly understood by much larger, more populous jurisdictions as a pivotal and indispensable economic development tool.”
 
During the past three years, Florida regulators have cited the state’s lack of a definition for “horse racing” as the reason for continuing to award pari-mutuel licenses for questionable events such as “barrel match racing,” “flag drops” and this past week, a series of distorted, miscast timed events that were vehemently opposed by multiple regional and national Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing owner, trainer, breeder and jockey organizations alike.
The activities have undermined both sports by deliberately curtailing the need for the amount of horses (and thus business and employees) that a normal racetrack would otherwise generate.
 
To read more about the Queensland project, click below:

United Florida Horsemen Statement on Florida House Gaming Committee March 13 Meeting

March 13, 2014–United Florida Horsemen, a consortium of nearly 7,000 Florida Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers said about this morning’s Florida House Gaming Committee meeting:

“We look forward to continuing to educate our lawmakers on the billion-dollar economic impact of Florida’s internationally known horse racing industry.   We urge our legislators to seek the proper information on why decoupling would put our horsemen out of business—and their thousands of employees out of work.

If Florida is truly open for business, we must focus on fostering the thousands of existing horse racing small businesses that are already here–as well as those looking to come to Florida–by ensuring that our full schedules of racing days remain intact.  This will promote the same investment and very economic impact that lawmakers are earnestly trying to create.

To view a brochure on the Florida horse racing industry’s economic impact click here:  United Florida Horsemen Economic Impact Brochure 2-3-2014

For a video replay and meeting materials on this morning’s meeting, click here:  http://www.myfloridahouse.com/Sections/Committees/committeesdetail.aspx?TermId=85&CommitteeId=2776


www.FloridaHorsemen.com

 

“Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” Is An Unadopted Rule, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal Affirms

In a short opinion issued today, February 7, 2014, the First District Court of Appeal (“First DCA”) affirmed last year’s lower court ruling that Florida pari-mutuel regulators’ licensing of “pari-mutuel barrel racing” failed to follow proper rulemaking procedure.

To view the opinion, click HERE.

“ . . . the narrow issue in this case is whether the (Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering’s) policy of treating barrel match racing as an authorized form of quarter horse racing is an unadopted rule,” the First DCA judges wrote today.

“The irony is that, during the years of litigation on this case, the professional riders who actually compete in real barrel racing have come to learn that the empty promises made by ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ were not about promoting their sport, but about Gretna Racing LLC using them as a means to run a cardroom 365 days a year,” said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a statewide organization comprising over 6,000 Thoroughbred owners and trainers that supported the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association in the litigation.

“The unfortunate aftermath of ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ is that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering immediately pivoted and issued a license to Gretna for ‘flag drop racing’—another contrived event conjured up for the same exploitative purpose,” Stirling added.   “The collateral damage for this and other statewide misuses of American Quarter Horse pari-mutuel permits is that the State of Florida cannot fully realize the immense positive economic benefit that legitimate horse racing actually brings.”

Hialeah Park, the only venue in Florida that hosts AQHA-accredited American Quarter Horse racing under the stewardship of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, has seen record crowds and growing wagering handle each year.

“This case is not about the merits of one sport over another,” explained Trey Buck, Executive Director of Racing for the American Quarter Horse Association.  “It’s about following the rules.  The fact is, legitimate American Quarter Horse racing is a proven economic driver nationwide.  By ensuring AQHA accreditation of American Quarter Horse racing, the State of Florida can be assured it is not only maximizing the revenue-generation of its pari-mutuel permits, but ensuring the integrity and safety of the events for fans and participants alike.”

About the American Quarter Horse Association

AQHA is the world’s largest breed registry and equine organization with its international headquarters located in Amarillo, TX.

AQHA issues and maintains the pedigrees, registration and performance records of American Quarter Horses.  AQHA also promulgates rules and regulations that govern AQHA-approved events and competition including competition involving the pari-mutuel racing of American Quarter Horses and the showing of American Quarter Horses.

The AQHA rules and regulations that govern the pari-mutuel racing of American Quarter Horses are contained in the Racing Rules and Regulations section of the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules & Regulations.  AQHA does not recognize barrel racing as a pari-mutuel racing event.  Instead, barrel racing is considered a “show” event and as such is governed by the show rules and regulations set forth in Show and Performance sections of the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules & Regulations.

While rules of Racing Authorities take precedence, AQHA, for purposes of AQHA records and programs, reserves the right to deny or revoke recognition of a race which does not observe the rules and regulations contained herein. American Quarter Horse racing is defined as two or more American Quarter Horses registered with the American Quarter Horse Association, entered and competing in the same race at the same time from a regulation starting gate, at distances and conditions recognized by AQHA and running at full speed, unimpeded by obstacles, thru a common finish line.

In short, AQHA supports both types of disciplines as competition for American Quarter Horses.  Horse racing is conducted on a traditional oval racetrack covering distances between 110 and 1,000 yards without obstacles.  Barrel racing is an individually timed contest conducted in a pen or arena running around 3 evenly spaced barrels or obstacles.

 

Horse Racing’s Dragsters Flocking to Florida’s Frontier . . . Will Florida Be Ready For Business?

American Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park

“Florida legislators should realize we are running big businesses.”

Great success has a funny way of riling folks up.  But to those used to winning, it doesn’t much matter, anyhow.  They just keep their eye on the goal.

For a seasoned set of executives who have targeted Florida as ripe for expanding the high-octane world of American Quarter Horse Racing, that goal is well in range now that their business at Hialeah Park is booming.

Monumental, storied, nearly a century old and steeped in old-guard tradition, Hialeah Park is looking a whole lot different lately since the equine equivalent of drag racing has moved in.

These days, if you want to find the money crowd at Hialeah, look for the cowboy hats and Western belt buckles—attire favored by not only the Midwestern and North Florida executives drawn to Florida’s resurging Quarter Horse racing scene, but also by their Hispanic counterparts who fervently share their passion. So zealous are the fans, they mirror the racehorses’ explosive, blinding dashes down the Hialeah homestretch—dramatically different than their Thoroughbred counterparts—which are long-distance runners more comparable to NASCAR.

Accredited American Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park draws a markedly active, diverse and highly engaged crowd infused with new energy and enthusiasm, thanks to the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA)—the Florida arm of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), an international organization of nearly 350,000 members in 14 different countries.

Like a more potent version of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, the AQHA sets the standardized rules of accredited Quarter Horse racing to ensure product integrity for the wagering public, and safety for the participating animals and horsemen.  So stringent and exacting are the AQHA standards, Florida law defers to its collective years of experience to oversee statewide regulation through the FQHRA’s statutory work.  Both organizations are trusted by industry investors to ensure a proper environment in which to do business.

“The fact that we would jump on an airplane just to attend an FQHRA Board meeting says a whole lot about what we think the potential is for Florida’s AQHA-accredited Quarter Horse racing market,” explained Ben Hudson, the 40-year publisher of Quarter Horse Track Magazine—one of the sport’s foremost publications.  Hudson is one of the newest members of the FQHRA Board–a collection of horsemen from around the United States who have seen a thing or two in their lifetime.

After watching the FQHRA’s growth and carefully evaluating Florida’s market potential, Gary Walker, an AQHA trainer and former racetrack executive with college professor credentials, joined Hudson among the new Board recruits this year, along with veteran horseman Butch Wise, who has managed the Lazy E Ranch–one of the nation’s largest, most successful racehorse breeding operations–for over 20 years.

An AQHA director for the past 30 years, Hudson brings with him the burning memories of Florida’s Quarter Horse racing glory days when “ . . . some very important old Florida guys were also very important in the AQHA.”

Back then, large Central Florida ranchers and landowners were instrumental in developing Florida’s accredited Quarter Horse racing market, which grew very successful, very fast.

The youngest member of the FQHRA Board, Walker sometimes gets morose when politics get too thick.  Whether it’s a Tallahassee legislative brawl, a litigation fiasco or an argument among fellow horsemen, dealing with the figurative mano-a-mano that horse racing law and regulation tends to spawn all boils down to less time that he and his colleagues can spend on growing their business.

Back home in Oklahoma, Walker also serves on the Board of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association—an FQHRA sister organization that also includes people who have long understood that American Quarter Horse Racing isn’t a weekend fancy.  It’s a way of life and often a family business.  As evidence, while Walker competes his 24-horse public/private stable at Hialeah Park, his mother, assisted by his children, takes care of 60 more horses back in Oklahoma.

But lately, even in Oklahoma—an enlightened, established state when it comes to the economic benefits of American Quarter Horse Racing—the casino industry seems to influence every aspect of the horse racing conversation, Walker laments.

In Texas, the largest-Quarter Horse-producing state in the nation, breeding farms are multi-million dollar full-time employers.  And yet, accredited Quarter Horse racing and its backbone breeding industry still works overtime to garner respect its popularity and revenue generating capacity should warrant.

If there’s one thing he wants Florida lawmakers to know about accredited Quarter Horse Racing, is that the industry goes far beyond the visual surface of the horses at the racetrack.  It extends to the breeding farm and ancillary enterprises that service and benefit from a typical race meet, including tourism, transportation and real estate.

“We’re not a bunch of weekend warriors,” Walker emphasizes.  “Florida legislators should realize we are running big businesses.”

But the problem in educating lawmakers about the horse racing industry lies in the very infrastructure and daily routines of its myriad businesses.  By 5 a.m., seven days a week, most horsemen are already at work and finishing their most intense training hours by the time most office workers are just pulling into their downtown parking spaces.

“The problem with the horse industry is that we’re invisible because we’re often dispersed throughout the state, and in rural locations,” explained Butch Wise.  “Unlike Disney World, you can’t just drive in and count the number of cars in the employee parking lot.  In a typical racetrack barn area, there are hundreds of people working there, but you don’t all see them in the same place all day long.”

Indeed, one accredited Texas farm with 60 full-time employees bred 1,800 mares last year.  Breeding fees start at $2,500, with the higher stallions commanding $35,000 a pop.  Assuming an average stud fee of $5,000, farms like these can turn millions of dollars of business annually.

But that’s not where it ends.  Syndication deals produce eye-popping price tags like a recent $12 million stallion who commanded $300,000 for each of his 40 shares.

Wise points to a 2012 Oklahoma study that found accredited Quarter Horse racing has a $3.2 billion dollar annual statewide economic impact there.  Last year, his own Oklahoma farm saw traffic of more than 2,600 horses, 1,200 mares of which were also bred on the premises, and others that even originated overseas.  Together, they ate more than 800 tons of hay during the same time period, among the many other expenses and staffing required to run the operation.

“That’s the kind of business that can be developed in Florida,” Walker says.

And the demand for accredited racing Quarter Horse “dragsters” is international in scope.  The AQHA advantage?  More modern rules that include artificial insemination allow stallions’ semen to be shipped anywhere, while enabling breeders to still qualify to bring their horses to participate in lucrative racing program bonuses like Florida’s.  For state economies, it’s literally a seed that keeps on growing.

“Our elected officials need to know that anything to do with horses takes years.  It’s like trying to turn the Queen Mary on a dime,” Wise explained.  “But the hurdles are being eroded and we’ve already established high class racing in Florida.  People are noticing and starting to participate.”

Not surprisingly, the FQHRA Board and its membership have a business plan to develop the industry statewide.

With counsel from Board members like Hudson, Walker and Wise, coupled with input from AQHA veterans who have seen the best and surmounted worst that politics has levied on accredited Quarter Horse racing in states across America, they are executing a clear course designed to propel Florida to national greatness in the American Quarter Horse Racing industry.

“An accredited Florida-bred stands for quality,” says Dr. Steve Fisch, the FQHRA President.  “Our horsemen are already getting the best mares and stallions in the country to compete in a forward-thinking Florida program designed to grow Florida business.”

“By working with an established, respected organization like the AQHA and its local chapters like FQHRA, legislators and regulators can be assured they have people representing the horsemen who have the experience of actual skin in the game.  More than anything, that will ensure integrity while growing the industry,” Wise said.

Remember those old Florida guys?  They’re still around.  And the last five years of FQHRA racing at Hialeah Park has stoked their fraying hopes, big time.

“Those horsemen who have survived still want to do this, even though they haven’t had racing in Florida for 20 years,” explains Hudson.  Now the next generation of Quarter Horsemen feels it, too.

“Florida is the ‘new’ old frontier,” Walker says.  “I feel like this is the place of the future, especially for young guys like myself trying to make it in this world.”

Bolstered by a lifetime of experience, Wise is even more confident.   “I can assure you that if elected officials support accredited Quarter Horse racing, there will never be a time they’ll be sorry, because the returns for Florida will be huge.”

“No one wants to be a pioneer, because they’re worried they might get hit with a few arrows.  But if you wait until the fort is built, you may find yourself behind the curve,” he said.  “It’s important to get on board now.”

 

www.FQHRA.com