Read What National Horse Racing Media Has To Say About Florida’s Misguided “Decoupling” Proposal

bloodhorse-logo1Top national Thoroughbred turfwriter Tom LaMarra noted in his September 29, 2015 column that “Efforts by casino operators and lawmakers to back away from the original intent of laws that linked approval for gaming to live pari-mutuel racing—some of the legislation has titles that expressly mention preservation of horse racing and breeding—are nothing new. In some states the pushback began only several years after the laws took effect.”

“Florida’s two Thoroughbred tracks do far better than most in the country, and it’s apparent by how well their product is received in the marketplace. Messing with that progress now, as the industry attempts to reinvent itself, certainly isn’t the way to go.”

Click HERE to read Tom LaMarra’s entire column, entitled “A Big Step Backward.”

One reader wisely commented:

“If lawmakers want to see the future of horse racing in a decoupled state, they ought to look at Illinois.  Arlington Park, perhaps the finest horse racing facility in the country, has seen its handle plunge an unthinkable 50% in just two years.  Lawmakers there have decimated an entire industry and for what? Because the casino owners want a monopoly share of the gambling market.  It’s not as if the casinos will fail, they will still thrive either way; horse racing tracks will go under and take an entire industry with them.”


FHBPA’s Kent Stirling–Two South Florida Thoroughbred Horse Tracks Going in Different Directions

By  Kent H. Stirling

Reprinted from

As the economy slowly pulls itself out of the recent recession, we have two race tracks just seven miles apart that appear to be going in different directions. One track has spent a huge amount on advertising horse racing on billboards, magazines, radios, and on every local television station during the course of the last 5 years, and the other track spends little money on horse racing in the media, although they do advertise their Casino. For what it’s worth, the latter track’s casino out performs the Casino at the track that focuses on thoroughbred horse racing.

Since we are horsemen, we will focus our attention on the track that spends heavily advertising horse racing rather than promotions at their Casino. Last year, Gulfstream Park ran the December dates for the first time and crushed the wagering handle numbers of Calder for any of the years when they previously ran the December dates. This year Gulfstream rather impressively outdistanced their own wagering handle numbers from last December on track in both the live product and the out-of-state simulcasts.

Through the middle of January, Gulfstream’s live on track wagering was up 12.6 % and its simulcasting or full card handle was up almost 18.5%. The live numbers were really much better than they appear as 24 fewer races were offered in the first 30 days of this Gulfstream meet, because they ran less races per day than previously. When one adjusts for those 24 missing races, the live on track handle then is up 22 % over the first 30 days of the 2011/2012 meet. These handle number are even more impressive when one realizes that the first 30 days last year included an extra Saturday and Sunday, because a number of four day race weeks were run last December, while this year Gulfstream has run only five day race weeks.

ITW wagering handle, or wagering within the state of Florida, on the live product is down 6 % from last year but when adjusted for number of races it is just about even to last year, or up 0.2 %. ITW Full Card or simulcasting wagering on out-of-state tracks bet on in Florida is down just about 10 % this year. Little advertising is used promoting Gulfstream’s live signal and the accompanying out-of-state simulcasts in the rest of the state, which makes it more apparent how Gulfstream’s local adverting has paid dividends.

Interstate wagering, or ISW, on Gulfstream’s live product is down a half %, but when adjusted for number of races it jumps to up almost 8 %. This then means that the winter’s most popular wagering signal that has emanated from Gulfstream for the last 12 years is up significantly over last year which was up over the previous year (2011).

Gulfstream seems to reinvent itself every year. This year it brought in the Claiming Crown which was on life support after last year’s edition when one race couldn’t even be used because of lack of entries at that host track. Gulfstream made last year’s failed race go and added another Claiming Crown race to the card. The seven races had 78 entries and wagering on track on just those races was a Claiming Crown record of $1,118,235. This had to be way more than double any other Claiming Crown handle. The interstate wagering handle on these one-time Blue Collar horses was $8,159,376 which was probably more than triple any other Claiming Crown’s interstate simulcasting total.

Next year the Claiming Crown will offer a million dollars in purses as the FHBPA Board of Directors has once again voted to increase some of the purses and add one more race. This event now joins the Sunshine Millions, Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth, and Donn Handicap day, as one of Gulfstream’s biggest event days.

Besides hosting the Claiming Crown, Gulfstream Park also hosted the Eclipse awards for the first time, and probably the first time ever that the Eclipse awards were hosted by a track. But aren’t these racing’s most important awards? So why shouldn’t they be hosted every year by a race track? There is only one track with a large, elegant room that could accommodate over 500 people comfortably, and that would be the beautiful “Sport of Kings” room at Gulfstream Park.

I would expect we will be seeing other industry events at Gulfstream, and would not be surprised to see another Breeders’ Cup in the not too distant future.

Since I am often perceived as always praising Gulfstream while not equally praising that nearby Casino with a race track, I feel it only fair to be at least a little critical of Gulfstream.

The new Gulfstream can’t hold one third as many people as its predecessor could, and that brings me to my pet peeve about Gulfstream. Last year, Gulfstream stopped publishing their handle numbers, and I suggested to management that they should again publish those handle numbers, particularly the interstate simulcasting handle numbers which are by far the highest in the country. Gulfstream complied and printed all their handle numbers from on track, within the state and their interstate simulcasting numbers. But then they went even further and started publishing “calculated” attendance numbers.

When you have a race track facility with free admission, two casinos and numerous entrances to the track from the Villages at Gulfstream, how do you know what your track attendance is? Possibly some secret formula based on programs sold, betting “whales” present and number of customers having lunch at Christine Lee’s divided by the number of gray horses on the card?

We have asked that these “calculated” attendance numbers be dropped, but through Donn Handicap day, February 9th they are still being published. According to these attendance numbers per capita wagering on December 2nd and December 23rd was $159. But the Christmas season brought out the heavy hitters as the per capita wager went to $420 on December 28th and a whopping $516 on December 26th. With what seemed like giant crowds on two Saturdays, we learned that track capacity is exactly 9,112, the attendance on both Claiming Crown day with a total wagering handle of $2,086,000 and Donn Handicap day when the total handle was $2,841,000. It seems Gulfstream is doing itself a huge injustice by continuing to publish its “calculated” attendance numbers which seem to be ultra conservative.

One of the local papers began their article on the Grade 1 Donn and co-feature Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap with the following: A huge crowd reminiscent of Florida Derby Day witnessed two memorable races on what was billed as Super Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

I know Gulfstream at this point probably can’t accommodate more than 11,000 or so, but doesn’t a “huge” crowd sound better than total attendance of 9,112?

Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing’s “North Florida Horsemen’s Association” Controlled by Gretna Racing, LLC Owners: Only in Florida Are Pari-Mutue​​ls Allowed to Own and Control Their Own Horsemen’s Unions

Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing’s “North Florida Horsemen’s Association” Controlled by Gretna Racing, LLC Owners  

State of Florida Cheated Out of Literally 99.1 Percent Of Revenue It Could Be Earning Through Legitimate Quarter Horse Racing

Together with former third-generation Gulfstream Park attorney David Romanik, Gulfstream Park lobbyist Marc Dunbar is the part-owner of Gretna Racing, LLC, which is causing a deliberate horse racing industry decimation and dramatic loss of State revenue by having unilaterally introduced “pari-mutuel barrel racing” in North Florida.  This outright mockery of Florida law is enabled by these individuals’ own non-profit corporation known as the “North Florida Horsemen’s Association.”

Because the “North Florida Horsemen’s Association” is controlled by Dunbar and Romanik, revenues from Gretna’s cardrooms and, ultimately, slot machines, can easily be funneled back to their self-owned Gretna Racing, LLC, not to the “North Florida Horsemen’s Association” members who have unwittingly signed away their State and Federal purse negotiating rights.  These unsuspecting horsemen and women don’t realize that their rights to Gretna Racing’s revenues would otherwise be ensured under both Florida law and the Federal Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978, the intent of which was never to have tracks own their own horsemen’s unions, since without ensuring lucrative purses to attract competitors, horse racing of any kind ceases to be a proper economic driver and job creator for any state.

If legitimate Quarter Horse racing sanctioned by the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (“FQHRA”) was taking place at Gretna Racing instead, these horsemen’s interests would otherwise be protected.  What’s worse, the irony is that legitimate Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association sanctioned Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park is out-earning Gretna “pari-mutuel barrel racing” by 99.1 percent, as reported to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.  Gretna Racing only pays $19.64 per day in pari-mutuel taxes.

With only 36 horses needed to complete Gretna’s entire “pari-mutuel barrel racing” meet, versus nearly 1,000 that are stabled right now at Hialeah Park, the FQHRA’s success, in turn, spurs economic development and job creation in both the racing and breeding industries, since that revenue is properly shared with horsemen according to State and Federal law,  thanks to the FQHRA.  As further evidence, Hialeah’s legitimate Quarter Horse meet has 803 licensed pari-mutuel employees registered at its facility, whereas Gretna Racing has only 38 comparable licensees.  Documented attendance at Hialeah Park averages 4,100 per day.  The Associated Press and other major media reported Gretna Racing to attract only 20-50 people per day.

But the fact is, Dunbar and Romanik are actually now profiting at Gretna Racing from the very same business plan that they, themselves, are suing the law-abiding horsemen’s associations for.  During 2011, Dunbar and Romanik launched a spurious lawsuit against the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, in which they claim damage from what the Florida Legislature ordained these statutory organizations to do:  Protect horsemen’s rights.

Nearly 450,000 members of United Florida Horsemen feel that the Florida Legislature should not support or negotiate with any person or entity that is currently engaged in a lawsuit designed to destroy horsemen’s livelihoods through self-dealing by means of dummy, self-owned horsemen’s associations designed exclusively to funnel pari-mutuel, card room and slot machine profits back to the track owners, rather than to properly disburse it to horsemen according to law.

To view State of Florida documentation on the ownership of “North Florida Horsemen’s Association,” click here.

The above information is based on reported Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering data.

Filing Information

Document Number:  N09000005229
Date Filed:  05/29/2009
State:  FL
Status:  ACTIVE
Principal Address 215 SOUTH MONROE STREET, 2ND FLOOR TALLAHASSEE FL 32301-1839
Mailing Address P.O. BOX 10095 TALLAHASSEE FL 32302-2095

Registered Agent Name & Address:  DUNBAR, MARC W 215 SOUTH MONROE STREET, 2ND FLOOR TALLAHASSEE FL 32301-1839
US Officer/Director Detail Name & Address Title D:  ROMANIK, DAVID S 215 SOUTH MONROE STREET, 2ND FLOOR TALLAHASSEE FL 32301-1839
04/11/2011 — ANNUAL REPORT
04/09/2010 — ANNUAL REPORT

05/29/2009 — Domestic Non-Profit

The United Florida Horsemen are:
·         National and Florida Barrel Horse Association (24,000 members)
·         American Quarter Horse Association (350,000 national members; 7,163 Florida members)
·         Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (439 members)
·         U.S. Trotting Association (25,000 members)
·         Florida Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association (630 members)
·         Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (1,300 members)
·         National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (35,000 members)
·         Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (5,000 members)

NPR Notes Sparse Attendance, Minimal Participants At Gretna Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing; Podcast

Barrel racing champion Charmayne James rides during a demonstration at a new arena in Gretna, Fla., that plans to hold wagering on the sport.
Brendan Farrington/APBarrel racing champion Charmayne James rides during a demonstration at a new arena in Gretna, Fla., that plans to hold wagering on the sport.

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December 26, 2011

At rodeos, barrel racing has long been a popular event. Riders, often young women, race their horses in a cloverleaf pattern around barrels in an arena. Using quarter horses, the sport has grown in popularity in recent years and has its own circuit of races and competitive riders.

But in Gretna, Fla., a plan to turn barrel racing into a betting proposition has run into opposition. Quarter horse breeders and trainers are suing to stop it, saying the new event could destroy their industry.

On race day at Creek Entertainment Gretna, a new barrel racing facility north of Tallahassee in Florida’s panhandle, two barrel racers walk their horses to the gates of adjoining pens. The starting lights flash from red to green, and they’re off.

The race is over in just 17 seconds.

Barrel racing has been the subject of betting before. But this is believed to be the first facility in the country built to turn barrel racing into a pari-mutuel-style betting sport, where those who back the top three finishers in each race split the pot.

There are just eight horses running this afternoon, two at a time, in a series of head-to-head matchups. That’s many fewer than at typical barrel races, where sometimes hundreds of horses will compete in a single day, one after the other, racing the clock.

Marc Dunbar, an attorney and part owner of Creek Entertainment who has long worked in Florida’s horse racing industry, says this brand of barrel racing is still a work in progress, part of an effort to bring a whole new type of customer to horse racing.

Interest in horse racing has stagnated in recent years, he says, while barrel racing has really taken off.

“When you travel around the country, what you see is, even with the biggest rodeos, they’re actually moving barrel racing to after bull riding — because it’s more popular now,” Dunbar says. “And the other thing is, it’s popular for a very good demographic. It is one of the fastest-growing women’s sports that’s out there.”

Only a sparse crowd turned up to watch a recent barrel race at Creek Entertainment Gretna, which  also offers casino poker.

EnlargeGreg Allen/NPROnly a sparse crowd turned up to watch a recent barrel race at Creek Entertainment Gretna, which also offers casino poker.

Only a sparse crowd turned up to watch a recent barrel race at Creek Entertainment Gretna, which  also offers casino poker.
Greg Allen/NPROnly a sparse crowd turned up to watch a recent barrel race at Creek Entertainment Gretna, which also offers casino poker.

So far, enthusiasm for the new Florida barrel races has been muted. On a recent afternoon, only about two dozen people were in the stands, and few people at the windows placing bets.

Andrea Kline, a barrel racer who moved here from Texas, says she thinks interest will pick up.

“It’s definitely growing. At first, it was a little bit of a trickle,” she says. “Now, that trickle is starting to be more of a pour. And pretty soon, it’s going to be a waterfall. It’s going to be huge.”

Among many Florida horsemen, however, the reaction has been positively vitriolic. The National Barrel Horse Association is against the new approach. So is the American Quarter Horse Association and its Florida affiliate.

Barrel racing is just part of what’s planned at the Gretna casino. There’s already a poker room in operation, and next year, the owners hope to win permission for slot machines.

To run the casino, the terms of the Gretna operation’s license also require it to hold live quarter horse racing. The problem is, Florida law doesn’t spell out exactly what that is. Dunbar, who teaches gaming law at Florida State University, believes barrel races using quarter horses fill the bill.

But Steve Fisch, who heads the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, says that defies common sense. Ask any person what horse racing is, he says, and you’ll get a different answer.

“They’re going to describe horses coming out of a starting gate. Many of them will say, ‘It’s like the Kentucky Derby,’ something like that,” he says. “I don’t think any of them will say, ‘I imagine horses going in a cloverleaf pattern, around barrels.’ Nothing’s saying anything’s wrong with that. It’s a great sport. But it’s not horse racing.”

Fisch says Dunbar and the other owners of the Gretna facility are exploiting a loophole in state law to run a casino without the expense of operating a costly racetrack. His group is challenging Gretna’s racing permit.

Dunbar says the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association is angry because he’s made a deal not with them, but with the barrel racers.

“Monopolies are frowned upon. And [the association] would like to be able to dictate everything that happens in the industry,” he says. “And that’s not what the Legislature created. The Legislature, for each horse racing facility, said the majority of owners and trainers decide what happens there. They have the ability to form their own association, and they decide.”

Gretna is a small facility in an out-of-the way part of the state, but it has the attention of Florida’s $2 billion racing industry.

Kent Sterling, who represents thoroughbred owners and trainers, says that operating a thoroughbred or quarter horse track means spending millions of dollars building stables, a track and training facilities. At a typical track, he says, several hundred horses compete in a season — compared with 30 or 40 horses competing in barrel races.

Sterling worries that if the Gretna casino succeeds, other racetrack owners will look for their own loopholes in the state’s racing laws.

“It’s a get-rich-quick scheme, is what it is,” he says. “But it could destroy one of the largest industries in the state of Florida, the racing industry. We employ some 52,000 people. For 34 horses, they can’t employ too many people.”

Whether barrel racing succeeds as a new type of pari-mutuel wagering in Gretna depends on many things: how many fans it attracts; the outcome of the legal challenge; and the reaction from the state Legislature. It may ultimately be lawmakers who decide what it means to hold a horse race in Florida.

Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association Holiday Greetings from Dr. Steve Fisch, FQHRA President

Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association President Dr. Stephen D. Fisch, DVM helped found FQHRA FQHRA was formed to represent the people who have an interest in racing the American Quarter Horse in Florida in matters pertaining to business, property, and activities of the association. One of the primary goals of the FQHRA is to ensure that the welfare of the American Quarter Horse is paramount and that every American Quarter Horse at all times be treated humanely and with dignity, respect and compassion. FQHRA is committed to promoting American Quarter Horse racing in Florida along with providing beneficial services to its members and to serve as a positive communication link between the members of the FQHRA and the AQHA.

Dr. Steve Fisch Extends Holiday Greetings on behalf of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and the American Quarter Horse Association

December 15, 2011

Dear FQHRA members and supporters of AQHA Racing in Florida,

The Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA) thanks and appreciates all of our horsemen who own, train and breed the Quarter Horses racing right here in Florida.  With your help, we will continue to develop the Florida Quarter Horse racing industry into a national leader.  In the process, we also will keep our promise of economic development by the Quarter Horse industry to the Florida Legislature and the people of Florida.

It’s a fact that the FQHRA and its Florida Quarter Horse racing and breeding industry is here to stay.  We continue to grow, develop and contribute to the Sunshine State’s $5 billion-plus equine industry.  And, we are proud to deliver the careful oversight, sanction and high standards of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), so that the people of Florida can be assured of an integral, high-quality racing product that will grow fans, while growing new

As somewhere between 800 to 1,000 or more top racing Quarter Horses convene this year at Hialeah Park’s Third Annual Quarter Horse racing meet, their entourages and connections will result in millions of dollars flowing into the State of Florida in the form of related tourism, real estate, entertainment and other important spending.  Not only is AQHA-sanctioned Quarter Horse racing a dependable revenue-generator for the State of Florida, but it is also self-sustaining, since it brings in enough revenue to pay pari-mutuel regulatory expenses, and thus costs the State and its taxpayers nothing, while bringing entertainment, quality of life and economic development to all Floridians.

But, with great success comes those who seek to dismantle it.  Because Florida law recognizes the positive economic benefits of Quarter Horse racing, our State Legislature, in its wisdom, mandated live horse racing as a requirement for pari-mutuel permitholders to have poker rooms and casinos in order to balance the latter’s economic drain.  To the dismay of Florida’s public policymakers, a recent attempt to exploit and misuse this law toward the ultimate goal of slot machines and the detriment of statewide horse racing has surfaced in the tiny, impoverished North Florida town of Gretna.  With it has come a shocking attempt to bypass AQHA rules—rules that have long been trusted to protect animal welfare, ensure racing standards and, indeed, to protect the very definition of “horse racing,” itself.

With outrageous disregard for the AQHA and internationally respected and powerful institutions such as the National Barrel Horse Association, several politically-connected Florida lobbyist/attorneys recently partnered with an Alabama Indian Tribe in an attempt to bypass Florida’s live Quarter Horse racing requirements and have the State declare “barrel racing” as a pari-mutuel event.  Quite frankly, because Florida has no statutory definition of “horse racing,” stopping this farce has been an uphill battle.  In its ongoing efforts, however, the FQHRA is proud to report that we have received and welcomed the unfailing and staunch support of seven other horsemen’s organizations of ALL breeds, comprising nearly 450,000 Florida and national horsemen including the NBHA, Florida NBHA, FHBPA, FTBOA and FSBOA.

As the battle over Gretna Racing’s outrageous actions rages on, it is becoming clear that members of the Florida Legislature and the people of Florida are not so easily fooled by slick insider manipulation tactics.  With outrage over what has been derided as “clever lawyering and loopholes” in Gretna Racing’s attempt to misuse Florida law, an atmosphere has now been created that will allow for legislative remedies to plug these loopholes that—through their failure to define the meaning of “horse racing”—have now created a net loss of jobs and economic development for Florida.

You see, as our legions of racing Quarter Horses and all of their trainers, grooms, owners, farriers, veterinarians and other support personnel who come to Florida with those horses that are currently training and racing at Hialeah Park until late February, thousands of fans will generate even more business and economic development during each day of Hialeah’s third official FQHRA meet.  In fact, Hialeah Quarter Horse purses total over $3.8 million this year alone!

Meanwhile, as Gretna Racing’s “pari-mutuel barrel” competitions trudge along in front of consistently empty high-school style bleachers, a tiny group of eight or so horses and riders who make up its “competitors” are telling the State of Florida they are the financial and functional equivalent of our 800—1,000 horses, their people and their fans.  With average “race” purses of about $172, near-zero attendance and reported all-sources wagering totals of about $1,000 per day, this charade probably gets a few hamburgers sold and the state of Florida probably creates some more red ink for itself as it regulates the eight or so horses and their riders.

In its misguided vengeance toward the FQHRA’s having done its rightful job by conditioning its sanction and endorsement of the Gretna Racing facility earlier this year upon the installation of a full-racing oval, as opposed to a dangerous “J-Track,” Gretna Racing has sadly, in turn, tried to portray its charade as “barrel racers versus Quarter Horse racing.”  Nothing could be further from the truth!  But the FQHRA and its members, together with the 450,000 members of the National Barrel Horse Association, AQHA and thousands of other “United Florida Horsemen” simply cannot and will not stand aside as the law is misused, with the ensuing results being financial damage and unemployment to the people of the equine  industry.

So, while Gretna talks of attracting barrel racers from across the country, legitimate barrel racing professionals know that the “closed club” of eight or so horses and riders competing in Gretna, Florida do not help their industry in the least.  As we all know, having only eight barrel horses in any competition equates to just a blip on the radar screen of the reality of what hundreds of horses at a real barrel competition means to the rest of the world.

The fact is, more economic development is created by local horse shows and true barrel racing events, inasmuch as they usually have well over 100 or far more entries, compared to Gretna Racing and its eight “select” horses.  What’s more, with all the publicity Gretna Racing, LLC is buying and receiving from otherwise-legitimate press, you would think they would be covered up in fans and horses.  Such is definitely not the case.

So, as the protracted lawsuits drone on this select group of eight or so horses and riders will be allowed to continue their strange show for the Alabama Poarch Band of Creek Indians until February 1 and 2, 2012, whereupon a judge at the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) will listen to the merits of our case.  Until then, the FQHRA assures its members that the fact that Gretna Racing is presently competing does not validate its actions in any manner.  The court is merely reserving judgment on this issue until our case is heard in February.

Keep in mind that allowing Gretna Racing to compete until then is actually proving our point.  Previously, these folks could “sell the dream.”  Now they have to “sell reality” . . . or try to keep it hidden, as the case may be.

The Florida Legislature convenes in January, 2012.  The DOAH hearing is in early February, 2012.  At that point, the wisdom of the Legislature and the judicial system will take over.  The FQHRA is confident that, at that point, what appeared to be a great negative for the State of Florida will, in fact, have caused a righting of past wrongs and a closing of loopholes that will yield a Florida horse racing and breeding industry that will be stronger than ever.  Closing these loopholes now is in the best interest of the people of Florida and the Florida horse racing and breeding  industry. Gretna Racing can be thanked for creating the opportunity.

I think after the Gretna Racing saga is over you will see–once again—that when all horsemen stick together, it results in a much stronger industry.  Each time Florida Quarter Horse racing has been put to the test, its strength becomes greater and greater once the test is over.  This time, the test results will prove no different.

Merry Christmas and great racing luck to you all.

Steve Fisch, DVM

President FQHRA, Inc.

2011-2012 Florida Quarter Horse Racing Draws Opening Day Crowd of over 6,000

With the Success of the 2010-2011 Hialeah Park meet, we are excited to announce that FQHRA and Hialeah Park have agreed, once again, to run Quarter Horses for 2011-2012.  This is the second year of the $26.4 million, 6 year agreement . Not only does this contract swing the doors wide open in building an outstanding Florida QH breeding program, this agreement  provides and produces over 7,000 jobs.  Farms, equine service jobs, Hialeah staff, Owners, Trainers and Breeders are now expanding their family of the Quarter Horse racing industry right here in the Sunshine State.

Race dates for the 2011/2012 Hialeah Park meet have been finalized!  Starting December 10, 2011 and running through February 19, 2012. Accredited Florida breds will earn 20% more purse money for their owners and breeders over open horses at the 2011/2012 Hialeah Park meet, and most of the races will be accredited Florida breds preferred.  A preliminary condition book for the 2011/2012 Hialeah meet will be avaialable soon. The 2011-2012 Hialeah Park Stakes schedule, calendar, and nomination forms are available!  You may access them by clicking the links below.

Hialeah Race Park and FQHRA, Inc made the following six year agreement:

  • Fiscal year 2010-2011   24 days of racing spread over 8 weeks, 3 days per week,
    STARTING:  December 3, 2010  through January 23, 2011 $100,000 per day.
  • Fiscal year 2011-2012    32 days of racing over 11 weeks, $120,000/day
    STARTING: December 10, 2011 through February 19, 2012.
  • Fiscal year 2012-2013    30 days of racing over 10 weeks, $120,000/day
  • Fiscal year 2013-2014    40 days of racing over 10 weeks, $140,000/day
  • Fiscal year 2014-2015    40 days of racing over 10 weeks, $140,000/day
  • Fiscal year 2015-2016    40 days of racing over 10 weeks, $140,000/day

Stakes schedules and race dates have been posted!
Race Dates: Click Here for Race Dates
Stakes Nomination Forms and Rules & Regulations: Click Here for Forms
We invite you to come to Hialeah to watch the world’s fastest athletes!

Hialeah Race Park Condition Book December 10, 2011 -January 15, 2012

Despite Animal Welfare Warnings, Gretna Racing LLC Officials Insisted on Building Dangerous “J-Track”

Despite full knowledge and understanding of emphatic policy statements on animal welfare from the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and its statutory Florida arm, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA), Gretna Racing LLC officials were determined to proceed with building a “J-Track” at their facility up until late 2011.

That is, until Gretna Racing LLC dreamed up “pari-mutuel barrel racing” and used its political connections to ram the brand new form of Florida gambling through the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering without enabling legislation, proper regulatory review or public input.

Beacuse of its proven danger to horses, “J-Tracks” are not recognized or allowed at Quarter Horse racing facilities, nor are they used anywhere in North America.  But Gretna Racing LLC  and its major partner, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, was determined to proceed with building a one (a cheaper version of the classic and fully sanctioned regulation Quarter Horse racing oval). 

Click here to read the FQHRA letter asking Gretna Racing LLC officials to reconsider the J-Track plans for the sake of horse safety and welfare.

Even though Gretna Racing LLC officials ultimately tried to circumvent the FQHRA by going directly to the AQHA to secure its eleventh-hour accreditation in a private Okalahoma meeting, the 350,000-member AQHA refused to recognize “pari-mutuel barrel racing” or Gretna Racing’s prior plans to build the treacherous “J-Track.”

Barrel-Size Loopholes Fill Florida Gambling Law, Mike Vasquez and Mary Ellen Klas of The Miami Herald report

The Miami Herald

Florida gambling law filled with barrel-sized loopholes

By Michael Vasquez

Angela Harrison helps her horse “Colors Runaway King” to hit the brakes as they near a barrel on Thursday. Barrel racers took to the racing arenas at the Gretna racing venue on Thursday, December 1, 2011. Visitors got to bet on the results for the first time.
As Florida considers ushering in a new era of casino mega-resorts, a dispute in the tiny Panhandle town of Gretna has focused attention on the state’s existing gambling landscape — and the considerable confusion that surrounds it.

Florida’s current gambling laws, some say, are so haphazard, so disjointed, that no one can even agree on what the term “horse racing” means anymore.

If you’re thinking of the Kentucky Derby, think again. Gretna’s new Creek Entertainment barrel racing facility — which also will offer poker and hopes to add slots — has just opened, despite fervent opposition from the state’s horse trainers and breeders. Instead of racing around an oval track, these horses zig-zag around red barrels, rodeo-style.

The owners of Creek Entertainment — which include a savvy Gulfstream Park lobbyist who once tried to install slots at Miami International Airport — say the particulars of how the horses are running don’t matter. Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation has agreed, and signed off on barrel racing as fully compliant with Creek Entertainment’s quarter horse racing permits.

By opting for unconventional barrel races, Creek Entertainment is poised to reap all the rewards of running a horse track, while avoiding the typical requirement of sharing profits with the horsemen.

“This is nothing more than a get-rich-quick scheme,” said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “When this gets to court, they’re going to have a lot of questions to answer.”

Stirling and other horsemen will soon argue their case before an administrative law judge, and the legal tussle will likely continue after that. Attorney Marc Dunbar, a Gulfstream Park lobbyist with an ownership stake in Creek Entertainment, says the dispute over his new track boils down to greedy horsemen who are unwilling to share racing purses with barrel racing riders. As for the notion that barrel racing isn’t true horse racing, Dunbar is incredulous.

“First of all, why is it called barrel racing?” Dunbar asked.

Of late, Dunbar has not only had to justify barrel racing, but he’s also been put on the defensive by accusations that influence-peddling played a role in the state approval of his racetrack. When Jim Barnes, a former investigator with the state’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, retired last month, his farewell email to colleagues said he was joining the “dark side” and taking a job as head of security at the new barrel racing track. Dunbar insists that Barnes has not been hired and never even filled out an application.

When reached by a reporter, Barnes’ only comment was, “I really hope you don’t screw up my retirement job.”

Horses, jai alai

These days, as horse racing fades in popularity but slot machines and poker generate huge profits, horse racing permits can be lucrative not because of the actual races but because, under Florida law, running horses entitles the permit holder to offer poker and sometimes slots. The same is true of jai-alai permits, which can allow casinos so long as the permit holder stages an even-less-popular gambling sport that features acrobatic men bouncing a ball off a wall.

The owners of Miami’s Flagler Dog Track/Magic City Casino recently obtained a summer jai-alai permit using a 30-year-old loophole in state gambling laws. The new permit allows construction of a casino/jai-alai fronton anywhere in Miami-Dade County. Even if no one shows up to bet on jai-alai, the casino could post a heavy profit through poker and slots. For now, Flagler’s owners have yet to unveil any concrete plans for what they might do with the new permit.

In Broward, influential developer Ron Bergeron is pursuing a jai-alai permit, with the possibility of building a facility in Weston. Bergeron’s attorney in that jai-alai bid is David Romanik, a Florida gambling law expert who also has a stake in Gretna’s barrel racing operation. The state’s gambling laws, he said, are the result of decades of lobbyist influence — a dog track or horse track, looking to boost the bottom line, will persuade a lawmaker to insert a beneficial clause or two.

The frequent goal, Romanik said, is to reward just one particular company, but writing specialized laws like that is unconstitutional. So the law is broadened just a touch, making it conceivable, but perhaps unlikely, that the new law could apply to someone else.

But that kind of legal wording can lead to legal loopholes big enough for attorneys in the know to exploit later on, Romanik said.

“The statutes are published, so they’re available for anyone to read,” Romanik said. But, he added, “I think you have to have specialized knowledge to be able to connect the dots.”


The notion of insider attorneys driving Florida’s gambling policy strikes state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff as all wrong. Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, is sponsoring a bill in the Legislature this year that would allow three large-scale “destination” casinos to open in South Florida. Though disagreements over the wisdom of allowing more casinos has dominated the public debate so far, Bogdanoff’s bill would also set up a statewide gaming commission that could, in theory, replace Florida’s hodgepodge of gambling laws with clear, understandable rules of the road.

The current slew of loophole-exploiting gambling proposals proves a legal overhaul is necessary, Bogdanoff told a gathering of Broward business leaders recently.

“I couldn’t have written the script better myself,” Bogdanoff said.

Why can’t Florida’s gambling guidelines be updated without approving new casinos? Bogdanoff says she’s tried a stand-alone regulation bill in the past and it got nowhere in the Legislature. But this time, the three casinos’ provision could end up killing the bill as well. Some opponents of destination casinos, including the Florida Family Council and Hallandale Beach’s Mardi Gras Casino, say they would welcome a cleanup of Florida’s gambling rules if it was proposed on its own. But joined with new casinos, they’re fighting hard to stop Bogdanoff’s effort.

“Somebody needs to go through all the gambling statutes in the state,” acknowledged Dan Adkins, vice president of Mardi Gras’ parent company. “Say what’s legal, remove the gray, what’s not legal, and here are the rules.”

Miami Herald Staff Writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.

© 2011 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

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