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.
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