National HBPA Convention Focuses On Progress

The National HBPA held its winter convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, from January 21 - 25. The presence of National HBPA President and Texas Thoroughbred HBPA President John Roark ensured the prominent visibility of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership at the event that focused on the progress being made by horsemen and the tasks that lie ahead. Also prominent at the convention was the presence of the NTRA, the AQHA, the Jockey Club Information Systems, and several other event sponsors and participants.

The National HBPA convened for its winter convention at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, and there was a distinct atmosphere of cooperation and unity under the leadership of President Roark. The organization took a hard look at its progress in a number of areas, as well as planning to meet the upcoming challenges that will be faced by horsemen in the coming years.

The National HBPA has seen considerable progress in the last several months in the areas of communications, increased national prominence, and strategic alliances with other industry organizations. In addition, the National HBPA has played an instrumental role in the industry's current effort to develop uniform drug testing and therapeutic medication rules and regulations. The National HBPA released its proposed national policy on drug testing and therapeutic medication last fall, and the organization continues to work with other major industry organizations to reach common ground in developing national rules and regulations.

Dan Fick, director of racing for the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), was invited to address the National HBPA convention about his organizations admirable educational efforts. Fick detailed a number of AQHA programs designed to educate both adults and youth, ranging from seminars and CD-ROMs to the American Quarter Horse Youth Association (AQHYA) Racing Experience and Claiming Stakes. The AQHYA Racing Experience, administered in conjunction with the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program, sends participating AQHYA members to the MBNA Challenge Championships, where they are each assigned to work with a trainer for five days at the racetrack. The AQHYA Claiming Stakes is a program to encourage racehorse ownership for youth, whose horses can compete in a special claiming stakes race.

Lonny Powell, executive director of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), also addressed the National HBPA convention, speaking primarily about the role of the regulators in developing uniform national drug testing standards and rules. He explained that his organization is currently developing recommendations for uniform and model rules.

The Jockey Club Information Systems' Carl Hamilton spoke to the National HBPA convention about programs available to horsemen through his company. He turned his presentation over to TJCIS' Gary Fuller, who demonstrated the company's new Trainer Program that will allow trainers to handle their business and paperwork more easily and efficiently. The program is expected to be released in mid-February.

NTRA Commissioner and CEO Tim Smith also addressed the National HBPA, and he addressed the question that always seems to be on the minds of horsemen around the country - what does the NTRA do for me? As it turns out, the NTRA is doing much more for horsemen than most people realize, and they are anxious to do even more.

Smith acknowledged that the racetracks, on the surface, seem to benefit more than horsemen from their NTRA dues. However, he was able to help make some of the benefits to horsemen more apparent while also pledging the NTRA's commitment to work with horsemen to develop more cooperative funding of horsemen's programs. He also pointed out the progress the NTRA has contributed to on many legislative issues over the past year to protect the horse racing industry and improve conditions for its participants.

Many of the things done by the NTRA that benefit horsemen are commonly known, such as market research and promotional events designed to broaden our sport's fan base, increased television presence for horse racing, and co-op advertising programs with racetracks. Each of these is designed to increase wagering and attendance at racetracks, which, in turn, will help fuel higher purses for horsemen.

Smith also spoke of the NTRA Great State Challenge - a new annual event slated to begin in 2002 that will pit the best state-bred horses from around the country in six races worth $1.5 million. Sam Houston Race Park has been selected as the site for the inaugural NTRA Great State Challenge, set for December 7, 2002.

Finally, Smith spoke about developing more cooperative funding programs with horsemen's groups. The THP has been working with the NTRA for several years to develop these funding mechanisms, and the NTRA is now anxious to partner with horsemen's groups like the THP on programs to give something back to the horsemen who have supported it.

The THP's Groom Elite educational program is a prime example of the type of program that the NTRA would like to support and help fund. Smith said that the NTRA invites and welcomes horsemen's groups to come to them with other such possible cooperative programs.

Speaking of the Groom Elite Program, THP Board Member and Groom Elite Program Manager Susan O'Hara has been named co-chairman of the National HBPA's Education Committee. She attended that National HBPA convention in Las Vegas and continued to work with the National HBPA in their efforts to make the Groom Elite Program available on a national level.

At the convention, it was apparent that the leadership of President Roark, Vice President Larry Riviello, and Executive Director Remi Bellocq is helping the National HBPA move forward and gain a more prominent and pivotal role in the horse racing industry, thus enhancing the voice of horsemen in our industry. Such leadership and innovative ideas coming out of National HBPA Affiliates like the THP have fueled the current progress of the National HBPA and will continue to keep it strong as horsemen face the challenges of the future.

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