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.”

Advertisements

Florida Horse Racing Trainer Bonus–FHBPA‬ Fuels ‪‎Gulfstream Park‬ $250 Incentive; Track to Cover Florida Horse Shipping, Return Expenses

Have you heard? ‪#‎FHBPA‬ Partnership Fuels ‪#‎GulfstreamPark‬ $250 Trainer Incentive; Track to Cover Certain Shipping Expenses

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Backstretch Fund will provide the “seed money” for the $250 trainer starter bonus recently announced by Gulfstream Park. The $250 bonus begins July 1 and runs through October 1, 2015.

Note:  At least eight (8) horses must leave the paddock in order for all trainers in the race to be eligible.

The “Backstretch Fund” money does not come from purses (owners).   This is a separate fund that is matched by 50% from Gulfstream Park’s bottom line.  This is the third year that the trainer incentive has been  in place at the Hallandale Beach, Florida racetrack.

Gulfstream will also fully cover shipping and return expenses within Florida for horses competing at the track.

 

 

 

 

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

Economic Boom Time At Hialeah Park as FQHRA-Accredited Quarter Horse Racing Thrives! 2013-2014 Season Begins November 29!

Something To Be Thankful For:  REAL Florida Quarter Horse Racing!

Hialeah Park’s fifth consecutive FQHRA meet has been described as its most successful and ambitious undertaking to date, and the upcoming 40-day program “ . . . will prove that Hialeah Park is a serious player and is working hard to establish a position of prominence in North American Quarter Horse racing,” Hialeah Park Owner and Chairman of the Board John J. Brunetti Sr. explained.

For weeks now, America’s biggest, most prestigious and successful Quarter Horse racing stables have been loading in to Miami-Dade’s famed Hialeah Park for its Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA)-sanctioned 2013-2014 winter racing meet that begins this Friday, November 29.

Accredited Quarter Horsemen From Across America Clamoring To Compete at Hialeah Park’s Fifth Consecutive Successful Quarter Horse Racing Season

For weeks now, America’s biggest, most prestigious and successful Quarter Horse racing stables have been loading in to Miami-Dade’s famed Hialeah Park for its Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA)-sanctioned 2013-2014 winter racing meet that begins this Friday, November 29.

Through the FQHRA’s stewardship, the vibrance and pageantry of Florida horse racing will be broadcast internationally throughout the United States and across three separate continents on a daily basis.

“We’ve got all our 830 stalls full, I’ve got some horsemen on hold, I’ve got others stabled at nearby training facilities, and even more who want to come,” Hialeah Park Racing Secretary Matt Crawford effused.

A former Texas horse racing official, Crawford has been busy recruiting accredited Quarter Horse racing stables and top trainers for the meet since he was hired by Hialeah Park earlier this year. “Our bigger stables are all coming back:  Donnie Strickland, Charlton Hunt, Judd Kearl, Brandon Muniz, Gary Walker, Alfredo Gomez, Ron David and Matt Frazier,” he said. “And most of them are bringing more horses.”

Indeed . . . horses, horses and more horses was the reason most cited by local area businesses as their biggest economic boost during Hialeah’s last season, as FQHRA-accredited horsemen rushed to hire enough employees to care for their high-dollar, high-powered racehorses, and scrambled for food, lodging, meals, equipment, gas and other supplies to carry them through the next several months of doing business in South Florida.

Hialeah Park’s fifth consecutive FQHRA meet has been described as its most successful and ambitious undertaking to date, and the upcoming 40-day program “ . . . will prove that Hialeah Park is a serious player and is working hard to establish a position of prominence in North American Quarter Horse racing,” Hialeah Park Owner and Chairman of the Board John J. Brunetti Sr. explained.

During the live racing season, Hialeah Park will also be open for simulcast wagering seven days a week, day and night. Available simulcast tracks include Betfair Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, and many others.  To view the dozens of nationwide and international outlets that will be broadcasting Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association competition on a daily basis, click here.

The FQHRA is the Florida Chapter of the American Quarter Horse Association, an international organization of nearly 350,000 members that regulates and sanctions accredited Quarter Horse racing (or “Q-Racing”) to ensure that animal welfare and integrity remain paramount to produce a quality racing product.

AQHA-accredited Quarter Horse racing annually produces thousands of sanctioned races that amounted in 2012 to $131.5 million in purse money.  Accredited Quarter Horse racing generated more than $300 million in wagering at U.S. racetracks in 2012.

For More Information About the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, go to:

www.FQHRA.com

Economic Boom Time In South Florida as FQHRA-Accredited  Quarter Horse Racing Thrives at Hialeah Park

Florida horsemen caught in corporate behemoth standoff over Intertrack Wagering power struggle–National and Local News Coverage

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:  National and local media coverage of Florida horsemen caught in corporate behemoth standoff over Intertrack Wagering power struggle

(Click a headline below to read the complete story)

Louisville Courier-Journal:  As South Florida “datesmageddon” approaches, horsemen call for truce

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Executive Director Kent Stirling said, “The current dates conflict is rooted in a statutory glitch that is being exploited by clever lawyering at the expense of what could be most beneficial for all of us, not to mention Florida taxpayers.”

Paulick Report:  Florida Racing Dates—Is It Really About Live Racing?

Somewhere, in the convoluted Chapter 550 of Florida statutes covering pari-mutuel wagering is language stating that pari-mutuel facilities wishing to import Thoroughbred simulcasts have to buy the signal from the track currently offering live racing. The selling track gets two-thirds of the net revenue, with the simulcast facility getting one-third.

Ocala Star-Banner:  Florida’s thoroughbred groups fear industry could be gutted by track dispute

Florida thoroughbred horsemen worry the continuing fight between Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park over racing dates will ultimately ravage breeders, owners and thousands of others who make a living in the racing industry.

Daily Racing Form:  Florida horsemen’s groups ask for cooperation between Gulfstream, Calder

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling warned that the overlapping dates not only might risk over-extending the state’s human and equine populations, but also fragment the wagering dollar and divert resources needed to tackle other challenges facing the state’s Thoroughbred industry, such as pari-mutuel barrel racing.

Paulick Report:  Florida Horsemen’s Groups Urge Tracks to Settle Differences

With South Florida’s two Thoroughbred tracks engaging in an escalating regulatory battle over racing dates, the professionals who do the “heavy lifting” to provide the actual horse racing product—the horse owners, trainers and breeders—find themselves as unexpected bystanders in an unwanted dispute.

Florida Voices:  Gulfstream, Calder Overdue in Settling Dates Conflict

Done right, horse racing and breeding affords Florida with enormous economic impact because of all the jobs and businesses it creates.  But, overlapping dates can drain the local horse population and fragment wagering dollars — making it difficult for the entire industry to prosper.

Wire to Wire:   Florida’s Horsemen urge South Florida tracks to settle differences

Lonny Powell, a former horse racing regulator and track operator, who now serves as CEO of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association said,  “It’s more than troublesome that this dates overlap crisis distracts from all of our collective efforts to grow Florida’s $2.2 billion-a-year thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.”

Blood Horse:  Rumor That Stronach is Buying Calder Denied

A Florida law requires a race track or jai-alai fronton to have a minimum number of pari-mutuel performance days to obtain and retain a casino license.  To do that, Calder must have at least 80 race days each year.

Calder Casino Owner Churchill Downs Posts Record Earnings

Churchill Downs Incorporated, home of the Kentucky Derby and parent company of Calder Casino and Race Course, has released its financial results for the first quarter of 2013 showing that it achieved record revenues for the period of $148.07 million.

Florida’s Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Associations Urge Warring South Florida Tracks to Settle Their Differences—And Soon

With South Florida’s two Thoroughbred tracks engaging in an escalating regulatory battle over racing dates, the professionals who do the “heavy lifting” to provide the actual horse racing product—the horse owners, trainers and breeders—find themselves as unexpected bystanders in an unwanted dispute.  Thus, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), made up of Thoroughbred owners and trainers, and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association  (FTBOA) can only urge Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino and Racing—each facility remotely controlled by giant corporations—to settle their differences—and quickly.

“I’m all about the free market, but there are certain types of products that require a greater degree of regulation.  Horse racing is one of them,” said FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “Done right, horse racing and breeding affords Florida with enormous economic impact because of all the jobs and businesses it creates.   But unfortunately, the current dates conflict is rooted in a statutory glitch that is being exploited by clever lawyering at the expense of what could be most beneficial for all of us, not to mention Florida taxpayers.”

Overlapping dates can drain the local horse population and fragment wagering dollars—making it difficult for the entire industry to prosper.

“This serious distraction of racing dates overlap, combined with other current issues like ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ and related spurious lawsuits over the constitutionality of independent horsemen’s associations have the real potential of scaring away investors in Florida’s horse racing industry,” Stirling said.  “Most of our members are small business owners and need to feel confident that their investment in Florida is protected and fostered.”

Lonny Powell, a former horse racing regulator and track operator, who now serves as CEO of the FTBOA agreed.  “It’s imperative that our members—Thoroughbred breeders, horse and farm owners throughout the state—see a flourishing, stable and growing racing industry in South Florida.  We certainly want both of these tracks and all horsemen racing in Florida to prosper.   It’s more than troublesome that this dates overlap crisis distracts from all of our collective efforts to grow Florida’s $2.2 billion-a-year Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry, which among the national few that show an increase in foal numbers, while our tracks continue to offer races that consistently feature some of the best competition on the national stage.  To place any of this at risk for a self-inflicted dates overlap collision course causes us much concern and frustration.  History has clearly shown there is no industry upside that comes from an uncooperative and intensely competitive dates battle like we’re facing here in South Florida”

Phil Matthews, a prominent veterinarian and FTBOA president, agreed.  “Much to all of our frustration, it appears that both we and the FHBPA have little ability to affect the situation.  That’s why it’s important for our policymakers to understand our members have a major investment in putting horses—our core product—out on the track, so Florida’s Thoroughbred industry can thrive.  It is imperative that we do everything we can to encourage these giant corporations to make the right decisions, not just for both their respective facilities, but for the industry and marketplace as well.  In fact, our future depends on it.”

Both organizations agree it’s long overdue for Gulfstream and Calder to finally settle their key competitive differences and successfully move forward. 

“The addition of slot revenues to purses has kept Florida competitive and held our place in the prestigious international world of Thoroughbred racing,” FHBPA President Phil Combest added.  “It was Florida’s horse racing industry that provided the platform and the partnership for the corporations that control these facilities to bring slots to Florida to begin with.  Because the horsemen stand to lose the most in this crisis, we’d like to see this conflict settled very soon.”

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

By  Kent H. Stirling

Reprinted from www.FHBPA.com

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?