Roark Speaks on Backstretch Issues at Symposium on Racing

On Thursday, December 6, National HBPA President and Texas Thoroughbred HPBA President John Roark was a featured speaker on a panel addressing "Backstretch Issues" at the University of Arizona's annual Symposium on Racing. The panel was moderated by former National HBPA Executive Director Scott Savin, who currently serves as president and general manager of Gulfstream Park in Florida for Magna Entertainment Corp.

Roark covered a good deal of ground in his speech. Topics he discussed included education, health insurance, immigration concerns for backstretch workers.

When Roark spoke of education, he lauded the Texas Horsemen's Partnership (THP)'s Groom Elite Program, citing it as a great educational benefit offered to Texas backstretch workers to help improve the quality of care given to horses racing in Texas on a daily basis. He discussed the exciting possibility of the Groom Elite Program becoming a national program.

Other speakers on the panel were California Thoroughbred Trainers Executive Director and General Counsel Ed Halpern, Ontario Harness Horse Association President James Whelan, and Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie's Corey Johnsen. Notably, Halpern discussed the movement in California for the unionization of stable area workers and the problems such a change could create for the racing industry both in California and around North America.

Among other issues addressed at the Symposium on Racing was the concept of a uniform national medication policy. The National HBPA was one of the first organizations to release a detailed proposed policy, and other organizations have followed. The Symposium featured a great deal of discussion and debate over these proposals and how to distill them into one comprehensive, widely accepted uniform medication policy. The discussions were major steps in the right direction, and this is an issue that will continue to evolve over the next several months. The National HBPA can be expected to play a major part in this issue as it moves forward.

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