|National HBPA Winter 2001 Convention
Maybe Things Are Bigger And Better In Texas
It seems like every time the National HBPA converges on a city over the
last few years for one of its semi-annual conventions, there is no way
that convention can top the excitement and entertainment of the last one.
Yet, somehow, they always seem to do just that. A case in point was the
recently held National HBPA Winter 2001 Convention, which was hosted in
San Antonio, Texas, by the Texas Horsemen's Partnership, LLP, from January
20 through 23. By its conclusion, it was hard to argue that things may
just be a little bigger and better in Texas.
Many people simply think of San Antonio as the home of the Alamo, but
the historic city is home to many other attractions and entertainment
venues. Among the top places to visit are theme parks like Sea World and
Six Flags Fiesta Texas, tours of the Spanish missions, the Alamodome (home
of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs), Retama Park, and the Riverwalk.
The Riverwalk, or Paseo del Rio, might just be the biggest draw outside
of the Alamo. The 2.5-mile cobblestone trail features restaurants, nightclubs,
retail stores and hotels. The trail runs along each side of a narrow part
of the San Antonio River that runs through downtown. The Riverwalk is
bustling with activity and excitement every night.
As over 230 HBPA members from all over North America converged on San
Antonio for the National HBPA Winter 2001 Convention, they found themselves
right in the midst of the excitement as they checked into the host hotel,
the Hyatt Regency on the Riverwalk. For many, a simple look out of their
hotel room window gave them a clear view of both the Riverwalk and the
One of the first things the convention attendees noticed when they looked
across the street at the Alamo was a familiar truck sitting in front of
it - the NTRA Racing Experience truck. Billed as the NTRA's mobile marketing
tool, the interactive exhibit is 60 feet long and 12.5 feet high, and
it's modern look struck quite a contrast against the backdrop of the Alamo.
The first stop on the NTRA Racing Experience's 2001 tour of the country
lasted for three days of the National HBPA convention in San Antonio before
moving on to Tampa Bay for a four-day Super Bowl stay.
Saturday, January 20, was a day for everyone to register and just relax
and enjoy the casual atmosphere and fun of downtown San Antonio and renew
old acquaintances. Attendees were treated to a cocktail party that evening,
sponsored by Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie.
Sponsorship was definitely one of the things done bigger and better
at the San Antonio convention than ever before at a National HBPA convention.
The convention host, the Texas Horsemen's Partnership, LLP, instituted
a trade show in conjunction with the convention, and the result was a
number of prominent sponsors enjoying a very visible presence throughout
the event. As well as some other exhibitors at the trade show, the event's
sponsors included Allstar Copying & Printing, American Quarter Horse
Association, Coady Photography, Compass Bank, Lone Star Park, NTRA, Retama
Park and Sam Houston Race Park.
The business got underway on Sunday as the Benefit Providers Committee,
the Medication Committee, and the Executive Committee of the National
HBPA Board of Directors met. Once that work was out of the way, it was
time for more fun as the convention attendees boarded buses and headed
off to nearby Retama Park for a dinner and evening of simulcasting.
Greeted as they entered the grandstand at Retama Park by a mariachi band,
attendees were shown up to Retama Park's Turf & Field Club, where
manager Jo Ann Weber had taken care of all the details to ensure a wonderful
evening for the crowd. A lavish buffet accompanied the evening of simulcasting,
and the mariachi band moved upstairs to entertain the crowd, as well.
It should be noted that Weber played a large role in planning the convention
with the Texas Horsemen's Partnership.
The rest of the Board of Directors committees met on Monday, preparing
for the following day's semi-annual Board meeting. They were followed
after lunch by a highly informative afternoon of speeches by industry
Leading off the speeches was the HBPA's own Sandy Erreguin, who gave
an update on the Information & Technology Committee's important and
groundbreaking endeavor: a publication titled, "North American Gaming
Facilities Locations," that documents the locations of all wagering
outlets across North America. The copyrighted publication is the first
of its kind, and it is already being sought after by a number of industry
organizations. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the information,
Erreguin detailed the need for constant updating of the material. This
will be an ongoing project for the National HBPA, which plans to eventually
make the publication and updates available to the public at a yet to be
Next up were Dan Metzger of the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders' Association
(TOBA) and Claiming Crown Coordinator Nat Wess to give an update on this
year's Claiming Crown (details on changes for this year's event can be
found on page 12). They were followed by a legislative update from Jay
Hickey of the American Horse Council (AHC), a discussion of innovations
in technology by Carl Hamilton of The Jockey Club, an update on the National
Licensing Compact by John McKinnie, an NTRA update by Keith Chamblin,
and a forum on simulcast issues by Texas Racing Commission Executive Director
Chamblin had a number of interesting developments to report for the NTRA.
The most exciting one was a new program whereby the NTRA will make up
to $1.5 million available to horsemen's groups for 2001 on a case by case
basis in the form of incentive programs. It will be similar to the advertising
program the NTRA uses with member tracks, whereby the organization matches
the advertising dollars spent by the member track. Chamblin also noted
that NTRA Charities has now become officially affiliated with the Ronald
McDonald House Charities. He also explained the NTRA has hired Host Communication
to take over selling sponsorships for the organization, noting that it
is the same company that built the highly successful NCAA Final Four basketball
tournament sponsorship program from the ground up.
The biggest treat of the convention was on tap for Monday night as the
National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) sponsored a Texas-style
evening of food and entertainment at the Institute of Texas Cultures.
It was a chance for convention attendees to immerse themselves in Texas
culture for an evening, and many of them took it very seriously based
on how they dressed for the night.
The Institute of Texas Cultures is a educational center dedicated to enhancing
the understanding of the history and diverse cultures of Texas. Opened
in 1968, it currently houses over 50,000 square feet of exhibits. The
exhibit floor features permanent exhibits on 26 ethnic and cultural groups.
Acting in the capacity that he has for so many major events of our industry
over the last two decades, Chris Lincoln served as master of ceremonies
for the evening. Host of ESPN's weekly "Racehorse Digest" series
and global presenter of the Emirates World Series Racing Championship,
Lincoln is one of our industry's most beloved and recognized faces. Never
short on colorful humor and touching stories, Lincoln did his usual terrific
job of entertaining.
While enjoying an excellent dinner, attendees were treated to the Institute's
"Faces and Places of Texas" multimedia dome show, which played
above and around the tables. Lincoln also treated the crowd to a brief
film, a moving musical tribute to the Kentucky Derby.
The Texas Horsemen's Partnership took the opportunity of the gala to
present a well-deserved Special Appreciation Award to a leader of the
Texas racing industry, Watson Macmanus. Macmanus was a founding member
of the Texas Thoroughbred HBPA and the Management Committee of the Texas
Horsemen's Partnership. He is currently the Chairman of the Turf &
Field Club at Retama Park as well as being an active owner and breeder
Macmanus has spent many years representing the interests of horsemen in
Texas. His service began while working on local committees at tracks like
Trinity Meadows. Through the years, his leadership has helped shape the
scene of Texas racing.
After dinner, things heated up as Texas musical legend Gary P. Nunn and
his band took the stage. The country music star has penned a string of
hits over the years, including "London Homesick Blues," which
he performs and is now the theme song for the nationally syndicated PBS
series "Austin City Limits." He has written hit songs for a
number of other prominent country artists, including Rosanne Cash, Michael
Martin Murphy, Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson.
When Nunn took to the stage, it did not take long for the dance floor
to start filling up. And full is how the dance floor stayed for a long
time as attendees raved about the great Texas entertainment. Nunn and
his band, just back from performing at one of President Bush's inaugural
balls in Washington D.C., put on a superb performance.
It was back to work the next morning as everyone convened for the full
Board of Directors meeting. Board business was preceded by a speech from
the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA)'s Dan Fick. Fick had some
fascinating information to share about the projects and programs of the
organization that boasts over 330,000 members.
Also before formal business started, the Nebraska HBPA presented the
new National HBPA flag to the National HBPA and its members. The new flag
was designed and produced under the direction of Nebraska HBPA President
Bob Lee. The National HBPA flag will be flown at Canterbury Park on Claiming
Crown Day this year.
The status and future whereabouts of the National HBPA's office was a
major topic of discussion at this convention. The Board had been examining
the possibility of relocating the office from Aventura, Florida, to Lexington,
Kentucky, and that possibility came under significantly more scrutiny
following former Executive Director and Secretary/Treasurer Scott Savin's
resignation in November. Savin resigned to accept the position of President
at Gulfstream Park.
The Board of Directors voted to accept Savin's resignation and to commend
him for the excellent job he did while serving as the National HBPA's
Executive Director. They also voted to have President Rick Hiles appoint
a committee charged with the search for candidates for a new, full-time
Joe Santanna of the Pennsylvania HBPA was selected by the board to replace
Scott Savin as the organization's Secretary/Treasurer. In addition, the
Board voted to reappoint Bill Walmsley to serve another term representing
the National HBPA on the NTRA's Board of Directors.
Following considerable discussion throughout the convention, the Board
voted to move the National HBPA office to Lexington, Kentucky. A specific
timetable was not set as other factors must be examined such as grants
available to horse businesses moving to the Lexington area and finding
suitable office space. However, the move is expected to come before the
end of 2001. The relocation to Lexington should allow easier interaction
between the National HBPA office and other major industry organizations.
In other news, the Board voted to accept the Medication Committee's motion
by which the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ACRI)
and National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA) will
be requested to refer to all pending "positive tests" as "pending
medication violations" for therapeutic classes III, IV & V. The
Board also voted to endorse and support the National Licensing Compact.
The Board voted to delete the Colorado HBPA from its membership. The
organization is reorganizing, and it will re-affiliate as the Colorado
Horse Racing Association. The new Colorado Horse Racing Association has
been asked to sign an affiliation agreement and submit its bylaws.
While much of the business of the winter convention was positive, one
topic that weighed heavily on the minds of all horsemen present was the
manner of the recent horsemen's contract negotiations at Tampa Bay Downs
in Florida. The National HBPA Board of Directors found the disturbing
events that led to the signing of what appears to be a less than satisfactory
contract between track management and the horsemen unacceptable. As a
result, the Board has drafted an open letter to the racing industry explaining
Events such as those at Tampa Bay Downs further accentuate the need for
solidarity among horsemen's groups on issues that all can agree upon.
National Spokesperson Bill Walmsley continued at this convention to speak
of such a need, and he strongly encouraged the National HBPA to lead the
way in opening talks with other horsemen's groups about the possibility
of forming some kind of alliance.
As a result, a committee will be appointed to investigate the feasibility
and methods of forming an alliance of various associations dedicated to
the betterment of horsemen for the purpose of uniting on certain issues
pertaining to horsemen. The alliance would and could act and coordinate
on those matters of unanimity. This committee is expected to report its
findings back to the Board of Directors at the National HBPA Summer Convention
in Boston, Massachusetts.
With business concluded, the Texas Horsemen's Partnership ended the
convention by sponsoring a savory lunch on a rooftop overlooking the Alamo.
The Partnership's Executive Director Tommy Azopardi and his staff should
be commended on a job well done in making the National HBPA Winter 2001
Convention a memorable and fun one. They did their part to uphold the
belief that everything is bigger and better in Texas, and they should
be a hard act to follow.