March 17, 2021
“HISA, a well-crafted and comprehensive piece of legislation, creates the national framework that addresses our industry’s critical need for consistent, forceful anti-doping control and equine safety standards. The NTRA Board of Directors, which consists of representatives from tens of thousands of breeders, owners and trainers from more than 40 states, as well as thousands of horseplayers and virtually every major racetrack in the United States, voted to support HISA. We plan to work tirelessly on behalf of our members and a broad array of interested parties and stakeholders to support HISA’s successful launch in July 2022.”
President and Chief Executive Officer,
National Thoroughbred Racing Association
The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of American horse racing interests consisting of leading Thoroughbred racetracks, owners, breeders, trainers, horseplayers, advance deposit wagering companies, and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity of horse racing and improving economic conditions for industry participants.
In 2020, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed, and the President signed into law, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA). Through this landmark legislation, HISA recognizes and empowers the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (Authority) to protect the safety and welfare of Thoroughbred horseracing’s most important participants—its horses—by delivering commonsense medication reforms and track safety standards.
HISA has broad support from the Thoroughbred industry, including: organizations such as the Breeders’ Cup, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, The Jockey Club, The Jockeys’ Guild, American Association of Equine Practitioners and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association; the nation’s leading racetracks, including Churchill Downs, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, The Maryland Jockey Club, Monmouth Park, The New York Racing Association and Santa Anita; leading horsemen’s organizations such as the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the Thoroughbred Owners of California; prominent Thoroughbred owners Barbara Banke, Antony Beck, Arthur and Staci Hancock, Fred Hertrich, Barry Irwin, Stuart S. Janney III, Rosendo Parra and Vinnie Viola; leading Thoroughbred trainers Christophe Clement, Neil Drysdale, Janet Elliot, Claude “Shug” McGaughey, Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher and Nick Zito; grassroots organization Water Hay Oats Alliance, with more than 2,000 individual members; international organizations the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities and The Jockey Club of Canada; and prominent animal welfare organizations American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Wellness Action and the Humane Society of the United States.
The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), along with several of its state affiliates, seeks to upend this historic and bipartisan effort to protect Thoroughbred horses and ensure the integrity of horseracing. The HBPA has recently filed a baseless lawsuit in federal court in Texas, seeking to declare HISA unconstitutional on its face. Setting aside its fatal threshold deficiencies—including the lack of any concrete or imminent harm—the HBPA’s lawsuit is meritless. HISA is constitutionally and legally sound. On behalf of a broad spectrum of organizations underlying the sport of Thoroughbred horseracing, we offer the following responses to the various claims by HBPA.
1. HBPA Claim: HISA violates the constitutional “non-delegation doctrine.”
Reality: HISA does not violate the non-delegation doctrine because the United States Supreme Court has long recognized that Congress may rely on private entities so long as the government retains ultimate decision-making authority as to rules and enforcement. HISA recognizes and empowers the Authority to propose and enforce uniform national anti-doping and equine safety standards, but only upon review, approval and adoption by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Though this is a first for the Thoroughbred horseracing industry, HISA’s structure is not new. HISA follows the FINRA/SEC model of regulation in the securities industry, and, like that model, is constitutional because any action the Authority undertakes is subject to the FTC’s approval and oversight.
2. HBPA Claim: The HISA runs afoul of the Appointments Clause.
Reality: The Authority is a private entity, independently established under state law, and recognized by HISA. As such, it is simply not subject to constitutional restraints on appointments (or removal) of its Board members. Indeed, any such claim is at war with HBPA’s non-delegation theory premised on the fact that the Authority is a private entity. On the one hand, the HBPA claims that the Authority cannot take action because it is private entity, but then argues, on the other hand, that the Authority cannot appoint its own Board members because it is effectively a public entity. These two HBPA arguments are in conflict, but have one important thing in common: they are both wrong.
3. HBPA Claim: HISA violates due process protections.
Reality: The HBPA’s due process theory also falls flat. Though the HBPA complains of equine industry participants regulating their competitors, a strong bipartisan majority of the House and the Senate made clear in HISA that a majority of the Authority’s Board members must be from outside the equine industry. To be sure, a minority of the Authority’s Board members will have industry experience and engagement. But it is difficult to understand how that statutory recognition of the value of informed voices constitutes a deprivation of due process. What’s more, with respect to the minority industry Board members, HISA expressly provides for equal representation among each of the six equine constituencies (trainers, owners and breeders, tracks, veterinarians, state racing commissions, and jockeys). Furthermore, the committee tasked with nominating eligible candidates for Board and standing-committee positions is made up of entirely non-industry members. HISA further imposes broad conflicts-of-interest requirements to ensure that all of its Board members (industry and non-industry alike) as well as non-industry standing committee members (not to mention their employees and family members) are required to remain free of all equine economic conflicts of interest.
Beyond these robust safeguards, established precedent confirms what common sense indicates: even when a private entity is engaged in the regulatory process, agency authority and surveillance protect against promotion of self-interest. Under HISA, for example, the FTC has the authority to decline the Authority’s proposed rules and overrule any sanctions—ensuring that neither the Authority nor the individuals making up its Board can use their position for their own advantage in violation of constitutional restraints.
Contrary to HBPA’s hyperbole, HISA is neither unprecedented nor unconstitutional. HISA emulates the long-established FINRA/SEC model, with even greater protections for all stakeholders. It is disappointing that the HBPA—an entity whose mission is supposedly the welfare of horses and horsemen—would seek to undo much needed reforms to protect the industry’s participants.
by Natalie Voss
The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, together with state affiliates in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia (Mountaineer) have filed a federal civil suit in an attempt to put the brakes on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA). The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, names the Federal Trade Commission and several of its employees, as well as the people tasked with forming the Nominating Committee for the new federal authority.
The suit seeks to have HISA and a number of its elements declared unconstitutional, to enjoin defendants from taking any action to implement HISA, as well as nominal damages of $1 and compensatory damages of any fees charged to horsemen by the new authority.
The lawsuit is being handled by The Liberty Justice Center, a non-profit legal center “that represents clients at no charge and was founded to fight against political privilege,” according to its press release about the case.
The National HBPA — using effective policies in place at Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park, Tampa Bay Downs and in consultation with other authorities — has assembled a list of best practices to encourage the industry to get back up and running. The NHBPA and other entities are urging tracks and racing commissions to begin spectator-less racing that is both safe and compliant with CDC guidelines and social-distancing directives. Eric Hamelback, chief executive officer of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, said the purpose of developing the template for conducting racing without fans is to have the information in a working document as a reference tool for tracks, locales and regulatory bodies.
“We’re not trying to tell government, health officials and racing commissions what to do,” Hamelback said. “Our intent is to provide insight into protocols that are working successfully at two of the largest race meets in America, Gulfstream and Oaklawn Park, and elsewhere. We hope it provides a path forward and others will continue to develop best practices. Horse racing is different from other industries in that our workers must continue to feed, exercise, bathe and groom our horses. That is going on across the country at many more tracks than are currently racing. It’s notable that the actual racing component involves far fewer people to stage than morning training.
“The COVID-19 health and economic crisis has devastated industries. Horseracing and its supporting agribusinesses are no different; and while income has ceased, expenses have remained constant. However, unlike many businesses and industries, horse racing has a solution. Spectator-free racing poses a minimal safety risk, is cost-effective, and logistically practical while still adhering to current national and state safety protocols. Every racetrack has a surrounding community that will benefit if horse racing is allowed to be conducted under these highly controlled conditions.”
Below are the guidelines compiled by the National HBPA. Click here to download the guidelines as a PDF.
Racing Industry’s Ability to Safely Operate During COVID-19 Crisis
The National HBPA in conjunction with horsemen and racing officials has put together these guidelines using existing successful protocols of tracks successfully operating and racing spectator free during the COVID-19 crisis. This document is intended as a resource for horsemen, race track operators or governing bodies and these recommendations do not replace clinical recommendations of health and veterinary authorities. These guidelines may evolve as they are implemented into practice and as we receive feedback. Finally, these guidelines were developed based on best practice protocols and procedures currently being utilized. Local factors should be taken into account if utilized with full understanding that these guidelines are informational and do not represent any assurance that the suggested action is all that is necessary or the optimum approach for a particular track. While the NHBPA wants to promote safe, healthy, live racing, it recognizes the rapidly changing health environment and must disclaim any liability for use of these guidelines.
Recommended Coronavirus Policies for Maintaining Spectator Free Racing:
- Establish a Staff Directory of all contacts for key personnel which can be accessible with cell phone numbers and emails. Also include the current management chain of command with names of key personnel;
- Establish a list of all on-track and nearby off-track medical facilities;
- Definitions of Essential personnel – employees who are considered responsible for basic minimum services and who are required to work when state services are temporarily reduced due to hazardous conditions. Non-essential personnel – employees who are not responsible for basic minimum services when state services are temporarily reduced due to hazardous conditions.
- Essential personnel may include racing officials as designated by the state, safety staff (ambulance drivers, track maintenance crew,) outriders, pony crew, starting-gate operators and specialized janitorial staff to sanitize the facility. Essential personnel involved with the care, training and racing of horses includes grooms, hotwalkers, exercise riders, trainers and their assistants, jockeys, blacksmiths, veterinarians, horse dentists, equine message therapists. Essential personnel licensed by the commission to ensure horse racing is held in compliance with state statutes and regulations include but is not limited to stewards, placing judges, official chart-caller, photo-finish operator, clocker and clerk of scales.
- To limit exposure and prevent the spread of germs and disease, NO VISITORS/GUESTS will be allowed to access the Backside, Racetrack, Track Apron, Paddock or Jockeys Room. Non-essential personnel are prohibited on the grounds;
- Only licensed and credentialed essential personnel will be granted access to the Backside, Racetrack, Track Apron, Paddock or Jockeys Room;
- Non-essential personnel should be prohibited, including all public service employees (including but not limited to food service, wagering tellers, ushers, admission staff).
- Develop a security team whose members oversee all access control procedures, monitoring and reporting requirements and ensure all suspected of confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection are properly communicated and documented;
- No wagering or food service in the grandstand;
- The Press Box should be closed to everyone except licensed and credentialed essential personnel;
- Stable cafeteria may remain open to serve essential personnel while following all State, Local and CDC guidelines and restrictions including patrons carrying out their food;
- All public areas of the grandstand are to be closed including for morning workouts.
Stable Gate (entrance to barn area) and Backside Security:
- Only essential licensed personnel are allowed in through the stable gate. This means no visitors or guests including those who are accompanied by essential personnel;
- Establish a health check station(s) where temperatures, symptoms and names can be logged before being permitted access to stable area;
- There must be multiple health check stations at every accessible access gate/entry for the stable area;
- Before being allowed in the stable area all essential personnel must have their temperature taken and be found to be afebrile. Log template may be provided;
- Establish a color-coded wrist band system with a different color representing each day of the week;
- Colored band must be applied at the health check station and must be worn for the entirety of the day;
- Access to any and all not wearing a wrist band with the corresponding day’s color should be denied;
- Trainers or their responsible personnel are accountable for all their employees to ensure essential personnel have had their temperature monitored and approved and thus are wearing the correct corresponding colored band;
- Racetrack management is accountable for all their employees to ensure essential personnel have had their temperature monitored and approved and thus are wearing the correct corresponding colored band;
- Backside dormitory and living areas must be monitored routinely for compliance by security team members and assigned racing personnel;
- Determine and designate quarantine rooms to be set aside where possible for the sole purpose of providing a safe area to be successfully quarantined, if required. Security team members will be needed to ensure these rooms are kept fully secured;
- All incoming van drivers (providing they are afebrile) must wear a suitable covering (a mask, scarf or bandana) over their nose and mouth and wear gloves when entering to pick up or drop off horses. Drivers and attendants must have minimal contact with any stable personnel;
- All Pony Personnel must wear a suitable covering (a mask, scarf or bandana) over their nose and mouth and wear gloves when in contact with jockeys while mounted;
- Gate crew personnel must wear a suitable covering (a mask, scarf or bandana) over their nose and mouth and wear gloves while loading horses in the starting gate and will have no physical contact with any other personnel unless in the best interest of safety.
Suggested Cleaning and Hygiene Protocols
Cleaning protocols should include:
- Focused cleaning/disinfection: increase frequency cleaning/disinfection of all high-risk surfaces (stable equipment, tack boxes, handles, elevator buttons, handrails, counter tops, etc.) and all high traffic areas;
- Provide additional hand washing and/or hand sanitizing stations;
- The working gate crew shall disinfect the starting gate every morning before training, during breaks, after training and between every race;
- Establish designated personnel to disinfect the paddock and saddling area every morning before training, during breaks, after training and between every race;
- Shipping company’s van drivers should disinfect vans and trailers between each and every trip;
Restricted Access Protocols:
- The racetrack, the track apron and paddock access will be limited to Commissioned licensed trainers and essential personnel who have horses running that day;
- No owners, media or fans will be allowed on the track in order to limit outside exposure;
- No guests, with no exceptions;
- No assembling of any personnel in any areas and all personnel should practice social distancing;
- Walking ring must be closed to everyone other than licensed personnel who are required to accompany their horse to and from the saddling barn or racetrack;
- Jockeys will get on their horses as soon as possible and proceed directly to the racetrack for the post parade and warm up;
- The racetrack, the track apron and paddock must remain closed to the public, non-essential personnel, and anyone who has not followed security protocol entry;
- A Security Access Log should be maintained by a member of the security team to register who accessed the apron on a specific day.
Access to the Jockeys’ Room and Jockeys’ Room Restricted Protocols:
- The Jockeys’ Guild should be consulted for organizational established protocols;
- Only essential personnel licensed by the state and jockeys scheduled to ride in races will be allowed access to the Jockey’s room;
- All jockeys and essential personnel in the Jockeys’ Room (including Valets and Clerk of the Scales) will have their temperatures monitored daily. Anyone showing any signs of illness must be denied access to the premises;
- Lockers and workstations will be spaced a minimum of the required six feet apart;
- All jockeys will be required to wear riding gloves;
- Jockeys must be prohibited from any physical contact between themselves and others;
- Jockeys are required to leave the Jockeys’ Room immediately following their last ride;
- All Sauna and extraneous facilities must be closed. Showers may remain open but will be sanitized frequently throughout the day;
- Jockeys should be encouraged to limit travel and a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine is in effect for all jockeys and personnel who have traveled internationally;
- Certain states have similar self-quarantine orders in effect for anyone traveling into the state from another state.
LEXINGTON, KY (Friday, Sept. 20, 2019) – A unified industry group believes banning Lasix will adversely impact the health and welfare of racehorses, as well as the strength of our industry. Today, a letter (posted below) was released with more than 600 signatures in support of protecting Lasix as a choice for horsemen and veterinarians to administer on race-day for the well-being of equine and human athletes. The initial round of signatures from racing stakeholders features individuals from across the industry. Signatures will continue to be collected going forward. Click here to be added to the list.
Public Letter on Stance to NOT Eliminate the Choice to Administer Lasix on Race Day
A recent open letter proclaimed that “horse racing is at a pivotal moment in its long history in the United States.” On this we agree. We also agree all of us love and cherish the equine athletes upon which our industry is built. To that end we believe in practicing the highest standards of horsemanship, and we continually work to improve the care, health and safety of our thoroughbred racehorses.
In that regard, we support horsemen and our veterinarians having the continued option to run a horse with a race-day administration of the therapeutic and protective medication furosemide (Lasix).
We, too, are ready for change and will eagerly embrace change if the alterations are done for the greater good of equine health and welfare. We are committed to reforms emphasizing transparency and developments that will address misunderstandings from those in the non-racing public as well as ensuring our horses are treated with the highest degree of care. The eradication of our choice to administer race-day Lasix will not do any of those things.
It is our belief that banning Lasix will adversely impact the health and welfare of our racehorses as well as the strength of our industry. Research also proves an increased number of horses will bleed significantly out of their nostrils, or into in their lungs, and an increased number will die.
We understand and agree things can and should be done to improve the safety and welfare of our equine athletes. It is just as important to understand what is NOT causing catastrophic injuries, as it is understanding the underlying causes. Many continue to claim Lasix will interfere with post-race drug testing due to dilution, but this argument has long been disproven. Lasix is a short-acting diuretic and the dilution effect is gone in two hours. However, the tightly regulated administration of Lasix is required four hours before a race. Thus, Lasix has no ability to interfere with blood or urine testing after a race.
No one takes our stance on this position casually, but we believe we must not be led down a path created by perception and not facts. For this reason we must stand for what is in the best interest and safety for our equine and human athletes.
This letter includes an initial round of over 600 signatures from racing stakeholders and signatures will continue to be collected going forward. Click here to be added to the list.
Signatures include the following: Rusty Arnold; Steve Asmussen; Buff Bradley; Bret Calhoun; Anita and James Cauley; Dr. Nancy Cole; Brad Cox; Boyd Caster; Wayne Catalano, Jake Delhomme; Michael Ann Ewing; Greg Foley; Vickie Foley; Tim Glyshaw; Larry Jones; Dallas Keen; Marshall Gramm; Dr. Chuck Kidder; Mike and Penny Lauer; Mike Maker; Ron Moquett; Randy Morse; Maggi Moss; Loren Hebel Osborne; Joe Orseno; Joel Politi; Allen Poindexter; Louis J. Roussel III; Clay Sanders; Chester Thomas; Mike Tomlinson; Tom Van Berg; Kelly Von Hemel; Gary and Mary West; Ian Wilkes; Jack Wolf; Erv Woolsey.
The National Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) announces its opposition to the Senate version of the Horseracing Integrity Act (S. 1820), introduced last week by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martha McSally (R-AZ). On behalf of Thoroughbred race horse owners and trainers, the HBPA has been steadfast in its opposition to the House companion measure introduced earlier this year by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY-20) and Andy Barr (R-KY-06) (H.R. 1754).
“Senator Gillibrand and Senator McSally have clearly been misguided. Banning race day Lasix will cause more equine deaths, and additional regulations will cause jobs to be lost,” stated Eric Hamelback, CEO of the HBPA.
The HBPA fully supports the veterinary community and the science on which they base their opinions. Under S. 1820, owners, trainers, and veterinarians would no longer have the choice to utilize the therapeutic, legal medication furosemide, more commonly known as Lasix. Lasix is used in horses to control or prevent Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhages (EIPH), or “bleeding” and has been used safely and humanely for the last 40 years in American horse racing. Horses often experience EIPH episodes during intense exercise, such as during races. Current industry policy endorses and strictly regulates the use of this medication on race day because it is in the best interests of the health and welfare of the horse.
“If Lasix is completely banned the number of fatalities on race tracks throughout the country will increase. While we are committed to finding answers that will prevent, reduce, and solve the occurrence of any fatality for our thoroughbred athletes, this bill is NOT the answer.” said Hamelback.
Also, the HBPA has deep concerns about the additional fees and costs that S. 1820 would place on those in the horse racing industry. For the smaller industry folks, these new fees will be the tipping point that pushes them out of the business. While wealthy owners may not feel the pinch, rural and agrarian jobs will be lost, and lives will be devastated. This loss of income will have a rippling effect on state and local economies that depend on the industry.
Hamelback believes the introduction of this legislation is a misguided attempt to address the recent equine deaths in California: “S. 1820 would not have prevented one single death. My members are as concerned as any about the recent tragedies in California, and we agree more independent research needs to be done to discover the cause of these deaths. However, implying that the racing industry is rampant with doping and that this legislation is the solution is completely wrongheaded.”
The HBPA strongly opposes the Horseracing Integrity Act and encourages industry participants to voice their opposition by contacting their representatives in Congress.
The National HBPA understands everyone in the Thoroughbred racing industry loves and has steadfast passion for our equine athletes. We know that owners, trainers and jockeys who deal each day with these amazing animals understand this deep connection. To those of us who have lived this life, our horses are members of our family. The loss of one horse causes concern for every racetrack, every employee and every equine organization in the industry.
The National HBPA and our affiliates stand fast in the promotion of safety in and for the racetrack, as well as surface testing and equine safety and welfare initiatives.
The NHBPA applauds the California horsemen’s groups, the California Horse Racing Board and the track ownership and management at Santa Anita in utilizing all the expertise available to study and resolve the current issue because we believe the safety of the horse and rider is the number one priority of the industry.
We are certain the thorough investigation underway will result in a safer environment for our equine and human athletes as we continuously strive for the safest conditions.
Finding ways for horse racing to do things better is the overarching theme of the National HBPA Convention March 12-16 at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater Beach, Fla.
That also is the mission of the new Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, a horse-racing think tank whose representatives form the March 13 keynote panel at the annual convention staged by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association and its affiliates in the United States and Canada. Launched last May, the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation already has issued a trio of white papers on horse racing and legal sports betting, when interference should result in a disqualification and rounding down to the penny in mutuel payoffs.
The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation’s stated goal is “to improve the thoroughbred racing industry for all stakeholders, especially its primary customers – gamblers and owners – through the exchange, curation and advocacy of sound, data-driven ideas, shared with and implemented by the sport’s existing entities.” TIF is funded by individuals and accepts no money from industry organizations.
Panelists are Glen Hill Farm president and think-tank founder Craig Bernick, along with TIF board members Jack Wolf of Starlight Racing and horse owner-breeder Corey Johnsen of Arizona Downs and Kentucky Downs. Moderating the panel will be Justin Nicholson, a TIF board member and co-founder of Equestricon.
“I continue to try to keep the keynote address about the positiveness and what’s working in the industry,” Hamelback said. “I certainly see this panel as that. This group and their board as a whole are very bright individuals who are all vested in the industry. They have a passion to make this industry as successful as possible, not just sit by and be status quo.
“We’re in a time where our industry is poised for growth if people will take heed of the changes that we should and could make…. These are people who want this industry not only to survive but to thrive.”
Other panels and presentations include:
- “Putting the ‘We’ in Equine Welfare” kicks off the March 13 programming by exploring what animal welfare really means, who decides what is and isn’t good welfare and why the industry must get involved in the debate. The session will be presented by Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, the New York Racing Association’s chief examining veterinarian, an accredited steward, industry consultant and attorney.
“It makes you think about what some of these activists see and things we can do to make it better,” said Hamelback, who has seen Durenberger’s presentation. “It’s dependent on how we treat our equine athlete as to how our industry moves forward, as much as growing owners and handicappers.”
- “Accessing Our Industry’s Stats Into The Future” will discuss owners asserting their rights to statistical data collected on their horses’ performances, including gaining input on how it is used. The panel comes as Equibase is testing GPS systems to collect race and workout data of horses.
- Michele Fischer, president of the Darting Star consulting company whose expertise includes wagering systems around the world, will make a presentation about the future of fixed-odds betting at American racetracks, including the positive impact it has had in Australian racing.
- John Marshall, senior vice president and general manager of Virginia’s revived Colonial Downs, is the guest speaker at the awards luncheon. Among those to be recognized is 2018 Claimer of the Year Persie, the Penn National-based winner of 10 of 17 starts in claiming and starter-allowance races for owner Bush Racing and trainer Lester Stickler.
- Dr. Steve Vickner, an economist and associate professor in the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program in the College of Business and specialist in data analytics, will present factors affecting handle in thoroughbred and standardbred races based on extensive research at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack as part of the convention’s March 14 programming.
“That’s the kind of thing we need to know if we’re going to have pertinent industry discussions on how to change things, and what we’re doing already that is a win so we don’t have to focus on that part,” Hamelback said.
- The public portion of the convention concludes the morning of March 15 with the annual Kent Stirling Memorial Scientific Panel, which will continue to delve into one of the most important topics facing horsemen: the dangers of environmental contamination and inadvertent transfer of impermissible substances to horses. This session focuses on naturally occurring substances in feed, forage and bedding and how horsemen can protect themselves.
“We have to be cognizant what’s in the barn,” Hamelback said.
Horsemen note that such a move would cost some $10 million in purse money.
Florida industry groups have lined up to oppose a plan by Churchill Downs Inc. to end Thoroughbred racing at its Calder property, a move that could cost horsemen about $10 million a year in purses generated by slot machines at Calder Casino.
In February, CDI was awarded a pari-mutuel jai alai license from Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. With that approval, CDI currently holds pari-mutuel licenses for both jai alai and Thoroughbred racing at Calder, but the latter will expire in 2020.
In documents submitted to the DPMW, CDI said it wishes to switch from racing to jai alai, a move that would reduce its expenses associated with statutory purse fund requirements. On July 31, Calder submitted an email to the DPMW requesting a declaratory statement from the regulator about whether the switch would jeopardize its casino license.
Under state law, the casinos at Gulfstream Park and Calder both pay into a single Thoroughbred purse fund, a commitment of 10% of their slot machine revenues. Even though Gulfstream owner The Stronach Group has taken over racing operations at the former Calder Race Course property—now run as Gulfstream Park West—the Calder casino generates revenues for purses and breeder awards all year. The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association estimates revenue from the Calder casino committed to the purse fund will reach $9 million-$10 million this year.
The Florida HBPA has filed motions with the DPMW opposing CDI’s plans to change the Calder pari-mutuel license from Thoroughbred racing to jai alai. Late Aug. 23 in a joint release, Gulfstream Park, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, and the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company each expressed opposition to CDI ending racing in favor of jai alai.
The Florida FTBOA noted that voters approved casino gaming at Calder with the understanding that it would support Thoroughbred racing. It said that support has allowed CDI to successfully operate slot machines at its Calder property since 2010.
“Now, Churchill Downs apparently sees the opportunity to pull a ‘bait-and-switch’ in the interests of increasing its profits, with little regard for the economic harm its moves will cause to the faithful Florida trainers, owners, and breeders that have long supported its racing program, as well as the other Florida tracks and participants in Florida’s Thoroughbred industry,” the FTBOA noted.
Calder officials believe that under the language of the state law, a move from racing to jai alai should be allowed. Under the company’s interpretation, it’s not a high bar to clear for such a switch. It said the law only requires the property be located in Miami-Dade County, existed at the time added gaming was adopted, and conducted live racing in the calendar years 2002-03—all standards Calder meets. If the DPMW agrees with the company’s assessment, Calder plans to offer summer jai alai and discontinue Thoroughbred operations.
The Florida HBPA noted that following the 2004 state-wide vote that allowed slot machines at Calder and six other pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the legislature recognized the “importance of protecting and promoting Florida’s Thoroughbred racing industry against the possibility that Calder and Gulfstream Park, the state’s two Thoroughbred tracks eligible for slot machine gaming, would abandon their Thoroughbred racing activities and instead offer patrons slot machine gaming only.”
In a filing with the DPMW, the Florida HBPA noted that in 2004 it committed $1 million to Calder to help campaign for the approval of slot machine gaming at tracks. It also outlined the far greater interest in Thoroughbred racing, as opposed to jai alai.
“The division knew, or should have known, that the substantial interests of FHBPA and its members would be or would likely be adversely affected,” the FHBPA argued.
In the release, Florida industry groups said if Calder is allowed to abandon Thoroughbred racing, the negative impact will be significant.
“It is extremely disappointing to watch Churchill Downs continue its effort to extricate itself from the racing business in Florida while adding millions more to its bottom line in slot revenue,” OBS officials said, before referencing the elimination of the grandstand and barns on the Calder property. “Calder’s Florida mission is illustrated by its past performances, which include bulldozing over half of the barn area, taking a wrecking ball to the grandstand, and supporting decoupling. Its latest attempt to exit racing via jai alai is a backdoor effort to continue operating slots and reopen its card room without horse racing. If Churchill gets its wish, the implications will stretch far beyond the Florida borders, and ripple effects will be felt nationwide in the sales ring, on the racetrack, and in the breeding shed.”
Decoupling is a proposal being debated that, if adopted, would allow operators to cease pari-mutuel wagering but retain their casino license.
In terms of casino operations, Gulfstream noted that if Calder eliminates its commitments to racing, that reduction in expenses will provide its casino a competitive advantage in the South Florida area. It also said Thoroughbred racing and breeding in the state would be hurt.
“We are obviously worried about the unlevel playing field and advantage Calder would have, along with the loss of breeders’ awards and purse money that has helped grow the industry,” Gulfstream officials said. “The ability just to change the use of a license after being granted slots under a different license would undermine all the growth we have achieved.”
On Aug. 24, a CDI spokesperson declined to comment on the Florida industry release.
Calder began advertising a part-time position on the company website and on LinkedIn for a jai alai player manager/trainer Aug. 6 and a position Aug. 9 for a cesta and pelota maker. A cesta is the basket a jai alai player wears on his or her hand to throw and catch the ball, and the pelota is the ball.
Since 2014, The Stronach Group has run the racing operations at Calder, which races as Gulfstream Park West. According to the DPMW, in fiscal year 2016-17, Gulfstream Park West offered 37 race dates and 346 races, with total purses of $7,593,910.
By Bill Finley
The $1 million GIII Delta Jackpot S., which had been the signature race of the Delta Downs meet, is no more.
According to Delta Downs management, the local horsemen’s group, the Louisiana HBPA, was opposed to putting so much money into one race and one card at the expense of overnight purses, and when the two parties could not reach an agreement, it was decided to do away with the race.
“While it was our original intent to move forward with the Delta Downs Jackpot this year, we changed course after lengthy discussions with the state’s horsemen,” said Delta’s Vice President and General Manager Steve Kuypers. “They made it clear to us that they were vehemently opposed to proceeding with the Jackpot, as they felt the prize money could be put to better use in strengthening purses for the rest of our racing schedule. We have honored their request, and will not proceed with the Delta Downs Jackpot in 2018.”
Jackpot Day had also included the $400,000 GIII Delta Princess S. for 2-year-old fillies, the $250,000 Delta Mile and the $200,000 Treasure Chest S. Those races also will not be renewed.
The Jackpot card was canceled in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey hit the eastern part of Texas, which is where Delta draws the vast majority of its casino customers. Management and horsemen feared that there would be such a downturn in business due to the hurricane that the money would not be available for the Jackpot races. Those fears never materialized, as business at Delta’s casino remained steady. The money that would have gone to the Jackpot card was instead put into overnight races and by the end of Delta’s meet earlier this year, horses were racing for huge purses. On closing night in March, there was a $50,000 maiden special weight race and a $64,000 allowance race.
Trainer Ron Faucheux, a member of the HBPA Board, said horsemen at Delta and its sister track, Evangeline Downs, came to believe that the money would be better spent on races that normally involve local horsemen.
“Lousiana racing has taken a fall,” he said. “You’ve see it in the breeding industry and everywhere else over the last five, six years. The main thing is to help the locals as much as we possibly can.”
Delta and Evangeline are owned by Boyd Gaming and the vast majority of money for purses at both tracks comes from slots revenue. With Evangeline’s casino bringing in less money than Delta’s, the purses at Evangeline are considerably lower than they are at the cross-state track. However, the horses and trainers competing at the two tracks are primarily the same. Faucheux said the HBPA is seeking to have the Jackpot money put not into races at Delta but at Evangeline.
“We are hoping this move will allow a transfer of money from Delta to Evangeline,” he said. “The purses over the summer at Evangeline have gotten depleted over the last several years. We’re trying to create a situation where they can transfer money from one racetrack to the other. With the extra money now available, we believe the purses at Delta will be what they were at the beginning of last year’s meet [before several purse increases were enacted] and we can also boost purses substantially at Evangeline.”
The Delta Jackpot was one of several examples in racing of a small-time track creating a rich marquee race to draw attention to itself. The race for 2-year-old males was won by both horses who went on to national prominence and horses who were never heard from again. The most notable winners of the Jackpot were 2016 GI Preakness winner Exaggerator (Curlin), two-time GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents (Into Mischief) and Eclipse Award winning sprinter Big Drama (Montbrook). In what could turn out to be the final edition of the Jackpot, the race was won by Gunnevera (Dialed In). After his 2016 Jackpot victory, he went on to win the GII Xpressbet Fountain of Youth S. and finish second in the GI Travers S.
Panel said backstretch workers need to know where to turn.
Members of a panel discussing sexual harassment issues at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association convention March 16 in New Orleans said potential places for workers to turn include backstretch chaplains, horsemen’s groups, backstretch health workers, and stewards.
Loretta Brennan, executive director of the Arkansas HBPA, applauded the move by the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to place forms in its office that allow workers to fill out a complaint about sexual harassment. Brennan acknowledged that not every worker may feel comfortable filling out such a form, but noted that it’s important to have options and make workers aware of those options so they don’t feel isolated.
Jennifer Johnson, vice president of Mountaineer HBPA who grew up on the backstretch, said workers need to have the ability to seek help and know where to turn.
“They do have to seek some help to make sure that behavior doesn’t continue,” Johnson said, noting that victims need to understand that they didn’t do anything wrong, and by speaking up they can stop this behavior. “They have to understand they have rights.”
The panel said sexual harassment can occur on the front side as well, and those workers should address the human resources department. They noted that where a worker can turn is not as well defined on the backstretch, and language barriers as well as the enclosed environment can potentially lead to feelings of isolation.
Brennan said that like every work environment, sexual harassment occurs on the backstretch. Some of those workers, who may not feel they are in a position of power, have shared their stories with Brennan.
“It definitely happens. I have had young women come to me in need and seek advice. I always reach out to my chaplain. I advise them that they can seek legal avenues. If it’s serious enough, they can hire a lawyer, but that hasn’t happened,” Brennan said. “My chaplain goes and talks with them, and gets pretty stern with them. I don’t think it’s happened again once I’ve had that conversation.”
Panel moderator Lynne Schuller recalled a personal incident where a horseman client she was representing at a hearing before the stewards said something highly offensive to her.
“I was going into a stewards meeting on a horseman, and he said something to me so shocking that I won’t repeat it,” Schuller said. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘You idiot, you’re going to say that to me right before a meeting. What would you say to an employee you hired mucking a stall?'”
Schuller said she informed the stewards of what was said, and they took some level of action against the horseman. She said it was never a problem again. But she said women working on the backstretch may not feel like they are in a position to say something. She said there have to be ways to communicate, and any victim has to feel comfortable in telling her story.
Richard Riedel, executive director of the Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund, said horsemen and backstretch groups should start activities and events that are popular with women like yoga classes and self defense. He said as members become comfortable in that atmosphere, advocates can present on topics like sexual harassment and inform them of their options.
Dan Waits, executive director of Race Track Chaplaincy of America, said part of chaplaincy training now includes training on sexual harassment.
“While the horse racing environment is unique, this problem goes on in any environment. As employers and supervisors, we need to provide a safe environment. Some of this is not just about sexual advances, some is about control,” Waits said. “People want to work in a safe environment where they are respected. It’s that simple.”