FTBOA’s Lonny Powell on GPTARP: “Thoroughbred people with major investments in the industry don’t like being treated like potted plants”

GPTARP Thoroughbred race deemed illegal

The race was run under the thoroughbred license of the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program, a non-profit subsidiary of The Stronach Group, which also owns Gulfstream Park. Frank Stronach, a major Marion County landowner, is chairman of the group.

FTBOA’s Lonny Powell: “Thoroughbred people with major investments in the industry don’t like being treated like potted plants”


By Carlos E. Medina

Published: Monday, July 15, 2013 at 11:53 a.m.

A 150-yard thoroughbred race run July 1 at Gulfstream Park was held illegally, according to a complaint filed by the Florida Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering.

The race came as a surprise to most in South Florida racing circles, as well as to the Ocala-based board members of the organization that held the race. The race featured three horses that sprinted 150 yards on the part of the Gulfstream track that lies in Miami-Dade County.

The race was run under the thoroughbred license of the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program, a non-profit subsidiary of The Stronach Group, which also owns Gulfstream Park. Frank Stronach, a major Marion County landowner, is chairman of the group.

The administrative complaint by the state alleges the retirement program was required to hold at least two races and did not inform the state of the race at least 10 days prior to its running, as required by law. The complaint seeks to fine the program $1,000 or suspend or revoke its racing permit.

Lonny Powell, executive vice president and CEO of the Ocala-based Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, said the race was planned without the inclusion of the four association members on the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program board.

“We started insisting about a year ago that GPTARP needed to start treating it like a proper business, with open discussions among board members. Our representatives on the board were never included in a single meeting until we demanded one a couple of months ago. There was a definite understanding that there would be no more surprises, so you can understand the shock we got when a few weeks later this thing happens,” Powell said.

Association members on the program board are J. Michael O’Farrell Jr., Fred Brei, Brent Fernung and Phil Matthews.

“By statute, the FTBOA has four seats on the board. Those members are thoroughbred people with major investments in the industry and they don’t like being treated like potted plants,” Powell said. “They are not figureheads, they are not phantom board members. That has been communicated clearly.”

No one from Gulfstream or the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program could be reached for comment.

The endgame for the race was an attempt to add more casino-style slot machines to the facility using the retirement program license. The move by the organization was criticized for its making a mockery of racing well before the state filed its complaint.

Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents owners and trainers who race at both Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park in South Florida, lamented what some were doing to the sport in order to gain other types of gambling, including card rooms and casino-style slot machines.

Vagaries in the laws led to the state allowing pari-mutuel barrel racing at Gretna Racing in 2011. Earlier this year, an administrative law judge ruled the state overstepped its authority by allowing what amounted to a new form of racing. In gaining the initial license, representatives for Gretna, including Gretna stakeholder Marc Dunbar, argued to the state that the law did not explicitly define racing. Dunbar was also part of the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program race. Dunbar, a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist for Gulfstream, could not be reached for comment.

“They have been getting some very poor advice on how to conduct this thing. I know Mr. Stronach well. I used to work for him. I know this is not the way he would truly want to be conducting business,” Powell said. “It’s supposed to be about the racing of thoroughbreds, not putting on some cheap facade to circumvent the investment which goes into racing to gain other forms of gaming.”

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Gulfstream Park’s unusual GPTARP slots petition has Florida horsemen wary, Daily Racing Form’s Matt Hegarty Reports

Daily Racing Form Reports on Florida Thoroughbred Horse Racing

An unusual regulatory petition is stirring confusion among Florida horsemen and breeders who do not know whether the request to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering  indicates an attempt by GPTARP, as it is known, to conduct an end-run around legal requirements for a binding agreement with the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA).

“GPTARP,” the acronym for “Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Retirement Program,” is the new name for Gulfstream’s decades-old Quarter Horse permit, which was converted this past February 2013 into a Thoroughbred permit.

Last year, “GPTARP,” a non-profit entity, also sought to be declared as the lowest pari-mutuel revenue generator for a certain time period, so as to secure a “Summer Jai Alai” permit that would then, in turn, allow it to re-apply for another Quarter Horse permit.  The State of Florida turned down the request,  which was based on a phony “race” staged on April 8, 2012, featuring two Gretna “Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing” women dressed up as jockeys and mounted on aged horses of questionable breeding that were bedecked in Western-style saddles.  The horses, one of which had been entered the same day as the “race,” were started at the drop of a flag.  Shockingly, wagering was offered on the event, which had not even been sanctioned by the American Quarter Horse Association as being a legitimate Quarter Horse race.  To round out GPTARP’s “meet,” a Thoroughbred race at Gulfstream on December 31, 2011 had been run under the GPTARP permit (likely unbeknownst to the entries’ connections).  It is predicated on these two “races” that GPTARP’s 2,000 slot machines would be installed, if allowed.

Also a remaining question is whether the GPTARP permit is domiciled in Miami-Dade or Broward.  The case is mired in administrative litigation.  Certainly, the actual location of GPTARP’s address given in the March 7, 2013 petition is troubling, with its “corporate offices” located on or off Gulfstream’s property, depending upon the source consulted.  According to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser, the address does not exist.

But Tim Ritvo, general manager of Gulfstream Park, said horsemen have no reason to fear the plans of GPTARP.  He said that under a contract the track reached with horsemen earlier this year “they are guaranteed a share of any revenue from slot machines if we exercise the permit.” The contract runs for at least 25 years, Ritvo said.

So why is GPTARP seeking clarification of the statute regarding the requirement to have an agreement with horsemen and breeders?

Matt Hegarty of the Daily Racing Form reports here:  http://www.drf.com/news/gulfstream-park-slots-petition-has-horsemen-wary 

Amid Ongoing Negotiations With Gulfstream Park, Headline Misrepresents Florida Horsemen

New Times Broward/Palm Beach was notified on April 12, 2012 that the headline of their published article “Gulfstream Park Draws Ire From Horsemen for Running Last-Minute Quarter-Horse Race” had been altered on a gaming-themed blog to reflect the exact opposite statement.

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Inc. (FHBPA), which is the entity referenced in the New Times headline and article, is presently in negotiations with Gulfstream Park concerning statutory purse (prize) contracts.  Based in Miami, the FHBPA (an affiliate of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association) represents over 6,000 members statewide to ensure Thoroughbred tracks’ proper payment and distribution of purse money to Thoroughbred owners, among its other traditional undertakings.

The FHBPA currently has a valid and binding contract with Gulfstream Park stating that only Thoroughbred racing may be conducted there.

To view the original article with the correct headline, click here.

To view a screen shot showing the altered headline, click here:  Florida Gaming Watch Headline

Slots Expansion Alert! Florida Approves Gulfstream Park to Run Two Quarter Horse Races; Right to Install 2,000 Additional Slots

Despite its growing slot machine expansion crisis, the State of Florida has awarded Gulfstream Park a license to conduct two (2) Quarter Horse races on December 31, 2011 and January 1, 2012, thus meeting the two-year statutory requirement to install 2,000 slot machines without legislative authority or local referendum. 


“In fact, we met with high ranking Gulfstream officials for three hours on Thursday afternoon (12/22).  During that meeting, the horsemen were asked for our ‘permission’ for Gulfstream to run a Quarter Horse race on December 31, and another race on January 1, 2012.  At no point during that meeting were we informed that Gulfstream’s Quarter Horse racing license had already been signed, sealed and delivered.”  Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association President Phil Combest emphasized.  “And the result was that the open partnership we’ve all worked so hard to build was inexplicably compromised as the horsemen were left to independently discover that another potential Gretna barrel racing slot expansion was in the offing”

Gulfstream is already authorized for 2,000 slot machines under its existing Thoroughbred permit.   Now, it would be free to install an additional 2,000 machines, for a total of 4,000 slot machines. 

Presently, the track operates 860 machines that only earned a daily average “drop” of $151 each during the beginning of this fiscal year.  By industry standards, this is considered to be poor performance. 

Gulfstream’s new license, # 536, was approved on December 19, 2011 by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering under the track’s Quarter Horse pari-mutuel racing permit, which it has held for years, but not activated.