President's Message - January 29, 2014
Greetings to the members of the WHBPA.
Here we go again!
As I write this message, we are about to enter the Chinese New Year, which is “the Year of the Horse.” To which I say, “it’s about time!” It has been a while since we knew that we could look forward to “the Year of the Horse,” and I would like to take the optimistic view that this is a good omen, and we could use a nice positive yank in the ying and yang in our local industry. Here is hoping for a Triple Crown winner, and a number of superstars out at Emerald Downs, whether they be claimers or stakes runners that captivate the local fans and make racing a success in 2014 at the “local oval.”
Joe Withee recently contacted me and asked if I would be interested in providing an introductory statement for Ron Crockett’s being named the 2014 recipient of the Paul Allen Award for demonstrated giving in sports. I was honored to be able to contribute, in a very small way, to that evening. That award, given as part of the annual Sports Star of the Year banquet started decades ago by former P.I. writer Royal Brougham, recognized Mr. Crockett’s history of financial leadership in our industry, as well as the successful drive to raise non-tax dollars to contribute to the building of the new Husky Stadium. Given the millions of dollars that Mr. Crockett has expended in building, maintaining, and operating Emerald Downs at a personal financial loss since its inception, I encourage you to congratulate him on being singled out for this honor.
We are now readying stalls for accepting horses for the 2014 season, with training set to tip off on Saturday, February 1, followed by a season that will run from mid-April until late into September. I am excited to haul in our first horse tomorrow, so he can ready for the season; our others will follow shortly. Loading up our horses after four or five months in turn out is always exciting, although not always for the usual reasons. Fortunately, my wife is pretty good with the rear door, and giving me a lot of “encouragement” as I load them up…
MaryAnn O’Connell, our Executive Director, and I have just returned from last weekend’s annual Winter Convention of the National HBPA which was held in Pasadena, California. It was an interesting meeting for many reasons, to include our cooperation with the Thoroughbred Owners of California as well as the California Thoroughbred Trainers association in putting on some aspects of a very ambitious program. We were able to listen to panels of experts in the industry tell us about the issues that exist with workmen’s compensation insurance in various states; hear arguments about whether “exchange wagering” will be a positive or negative influence on our sport (as laws that allow it have been passed in both California and New Jersey); learn about the importance and “how to’s” of lobbying and developing relationships with elected officials and decision-makers affecting our industry; hearing about alternative science affecting treatment of thoroughbreds, such as the use of extra corporal shock wave therapy and causes of breakdowns; we enjoyed a roundtable of leaders from the National HBPA and from California talk about the challenges that they believe we face in horse racing, and the opportunities that lay ahead; and, as always, we were treated to an outstanding panel of vet scientists informing us as to the issues that exist with a study on bleeding conducted at the Breeders Cup races held last November at Santa Anita, and the issues that exist with the Racing Medication Testing Consortium’s use of a list of 24 approved therapeutic medications, and the challenges that exist for our trainers and vets in “making do” with in-training and out of training testing that surrounds those approved medications. In addition to those items, we were part of the general business of the National HBPA, which has a great deal of committee activity, on which I sit on five committees, and MaryAnn sits on six committees, none of which are the same. We try to bring what we learn in these meetings to our discussions with the management at Emerald Downs on various topics, as well as with our various presentations to the Washington Horse Racing Commission in its various meetings which we attend.
We will, as we try to do each year, plan to have an informational meeting for our membership prior to the start of the meet, to address current topics and answer any questions that you might have. We will likely do so in late March or early April, when most of our trainers have returned to the local nest, readying for the start of the meeting.
Best of luck and success to all. It is, after all, the Year of the Horse.