THP Comes To Aid of Tampa Bay Downs Horsemen

The Texas Horsemen's Partnership has withheld approval to export the Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred simulcast signal into Tampa Bay Downs. This action comes as a response to the current situation that continues to develop between the management of Tampa Bay Downs and the local horsemen represented by the Tampa Bay HBPA.

Tampa Bay Downs' has decided to deny the stall application of Tampa Bay Downs Horsemen's Protective and Benevolent Association President Bob Jeffries. This follows a protracted battle between the racetrack and the horsemen's group that saw the late Leonard Alexander, the former Tampa HBPA president, denied stalls last year.

Last year, without stalls at Tampa Bay, Mr. Jefferies still supported the racing program there by running 22 horses, while compiling a record of 3-3-1. This year, Bob applied for eight (8) stalls and his application listed four (4) winners and four (4) maidens. His winners raced at Tampa Bay Downs, Calder and Suffolk Downs. One of his four maidens has been second and third at Calder and second at Pimlico in his last three starts, and another of his maidens just ran second at Belmont for in $50,000 claiming race.

"This action by Tampa Bay Downs is a continuation of their attempt to try to dismantle the horsemen's organization," said Linda Mills, president of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, a group that represents horsemen on Florida's east coast.

"It appears that Tampa Bay Downs Management is taking punitive actions against HBPA board members," explained John Roark, president of the National HBPA and the Texas Thoroughbred HBPA. "Mr. Berube's (vice president and general manager of Tampa Bay Downs) position on this issue is not in the best interests of racing."

Roark went on to say, "The HBPA motto is 'horsemen helping horsemen,' and it is important that Tampa Bay HBPA is given the respect they deserve while trying to represent their local horsemen and protect their interests."

Tampa Bay Downs is open for only simulcasting until December 15. Under Florida law, tracks not open for live racing can only take simulcast signals through a host track open for live racing. The signal, once sent to the track running live, must be available to all outlets licensed to carry it.

Thus, between now and December 15, a vote by horsemen to deny signals to Tampa would remove the signals from Calder Race Course, the host track, and about 25 other wagering facilities in the state.

Mills indicated that the action taken by Texas horsemen would likely be followed by a number of other states, including Kentucky. Should that occur, it would mean that Calder could no longer simulcast from its parent track, Churchill Downs.

Calder president Ken Dunn indicated that he has heard no word of the impending action but might look for another way to import Churchill's signal if horsemen vote to withhold their approval.

In another apparent move to disrupt the HBPA, Tampa Bay Downs management has refused access to the HBPA offices until November 15, citing "security and maintenance issues" even though all of the files and other property of the HBPA remain in those offices.

It also remains unclear whether or not the horsemen will have a contract with Tampa Bay Downs in place by the beginning of the live meet. The window to break the existing contract and re-negotiate a new one closes on November 15.

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