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Emerald Downs

Muckleshoot Indian Tribe

Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association

Washington Horse Racing Commission

President's Message - February 1

Greetings from your WHBPA:

Greetings to the members of the WHBPA.  Well, here we go again!  Our 2011 season is upon us.  We will start moving our horses into the barns this coming Sunday, and they will start to hit the track one week from today!  Best of success to each of you, unless of course you are facing one of ours (in which case I wish you a safe and almost successful trip).

As we get underway, there are a few areas that I would like to address off the bat:

  • First, we have come to an agreement with the Jockeys’ Guild affecting primarily losing mount fees for Emerald Downs jockeys.  They have not had an increase in a number of years, and, as their costs have increased along with the rest of ours, we agreed to increase their rates $10 for each losing mount fee.  As most of our races are run in the bottom range of the agreement, the $45 fee is increased to $55.  On a closely related note, there should be good news regarding a means to pay for this coming out shortly - which we will be very pleased to announce - but we are awaiting news regarding the 2011 participation of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe in the Economic Development Fund before knowing the specifics of what that news will be.  However, we will report it to you as soon as we have the information and the calculations for that likely good news secured.

  • Second, as we have reported here, Emerald Downs has taken some substantial losses over the years, but the 2010 loss was very significant and must be deeply reduced in 2011.  There will likely be some service impacts that we will each feel once in the grandstands, but the majority of what goes on at the backside will remain unchanged.  However, we will be coordinating with Emerald Downs to work with you to assist in reducing the utility cost load that they face in 2011.  Conservation of water resources, conservation of electrical resources, and improved accumulation for disposal of the backside waste and trash will be expected by Emerald Downs and by your WHBPA leadership this coming year.  We will keep you informed of this by way of a meeting early in the season to discuss those issues.

  • Third, I would like to once again address the issue of truly harmful race-track rumors.  Stop it, now.  I have made this request before, and some people have asked me to provide more detail, so I am doing so below, as a footnote to this message.  If you care for the details, please read the footnote, but if you don’t, you can just follow the rest of the letter.

  • Fourth, as all of you likely know by now, Emerald Downs sought, and the Washington Horse Racing Commission approved, an 82 day race meet.  Emerald Downs has set forth the schedule of racing dates to be conservative in light of the industry’s economic challenges, but is hopeful of increasing the number of racing days, if conditions allow for it as the season goes on.  Most of the lost days will be felt in the elimination of Thursdays earlier in the season than last year.    

Separately, there are a few items of “other news” that I want to pass along as well, so that you can schedule some opportunities to spend some time (and some money) with your fellow horsemen and women. 

On Saturday, February 19, the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, with support from Emerald Downs, your WHBPA, and the Washington Thoroughbred Foundation will present the annual Washington Awards Banquet.  Please consider attending this evening, which is a great way to renew acquaintances and see old friends, as well as kick-off our 2011 season.  Tickets can be acquired through the WTBOA, or at the door.  The event is slated to start at 5:30, at Emerald Downs.

Additionally, your WHBPA is involved in a separate event, on Friday, April 1, to raise funds in support of the Backstretch Clubhouse, which provides outreach and support for the child care center at Emerald Downs.  This is a charitable organization, and has been supported through the donations and good will of horsemen and women since its beginnings in 1998.  If you can, please plan to attend the event, which will be a Casino Night and Auction event.  We need sponsors, and we need auction items, so please consider sponsoring a gaming table, or providing some item of value for the benefit of the entity.  I will provide some “leadership” in this regard by putting some of “my money where my mouth is” and I will sponsor a gaming table and will provide several items for the auction.  Please consider helping out, as your help goes to those who are less fortunate, and are within our immediate industry community.

I will renew my requests for help and provide additional messages of awareness for this event in my coming messages to you.

As I close this message, I would like to thank those of you who are returning to our state for the 2011 racing season.  Obviously, we each need the other – owner, trainer, track, and jockey – and times have been difficult for all of us.  We also need the track’s fans of racing, and the bettor, so I would also ask you to consider doing yourself and others a favor by welcoming them into our game as well.  Opportunities for simple acknowledgement, close-up views of the magnificent equine athletes, or  even a conversation that helps to explain what is going on around them are always a good way to increase the experience for those who are visiting us at the track.

We will plan to have a general information meeting for our trainers in the middle of February, on a weekend.  We will keep you apprised as to when that will take place in the coming days.  Owners will certainly be welcome to join as well.
Happy New Season!  Welcome back, and best of success to you.

Ron Maus

If you have comments or questions, I can be reached at ron@buffalostables.com.

Footnote: First example: More than a month ago, I was called by a WHBPA member, a trainer who winters at Portland Meadows.  He asked me about the significantly curtailed 2011 season at Emerald Downs, as he had “heard,” from a number of sources, that it had been cut to a “50 day meet” and that was “official.”  I told him in no uncertain terms that what he had been told was completely false, and that it would be in his interest, and in the interest of all those who heard such a rumor, to keep in mind that the IDIOTS who were spreading such rumors were just that.  Sorry to be so impolitic, but if I have learned one thing about the local horse racing community, it is that there are many persons who seem to relish in passing along misinformation as if it is fact.  Although there are many folks who find self-importance in pretending to be “in the know” about one thing or another, when it comes to much that is truly worthwhile, they are rarely in possession of such knowledge.  Did such rumors cause some trainers to move away from Emerald Downs this year?  Perhaps.  We won’t know immediately, but what possible positive outcome does spreading this type of falsity provide?  None I can think of, beyond the immediate self-aggrandizement of “I know something you don’t know” – even when they don’t.  Remember who it is that tells you the tall tales, and give them the appropriate level of disinterest when they next come to you peddling more horse crap.

Second example: While there are many other examples that I have cringed at during this time of great stress in our industry’s economics, another one - which has resulted in legal action against those who spread false rumors as truth - involved allegations that one of our WHBPA trainers had mistreated and starved horses at the end of a prior meet, and sent others of them to the auction pens to be sent to “the killers.”  [Added untruths went into other probably false subject matter as well].

Those allegations were taken quite seriously when first spread (and spread around generously by a cadre of rumor-mongers), impugning the character of this trainer.  An investigation in which I participated, along with others (as well as governmental authorities), found those allegations to be false.  I am pleased that the trainer has taken legal action to protect his name and to ensure that those who falsely published accusations and falsely spread such slander will have to answer for their actions in court. 

PLEASE, don’t spread gossip.  And if you are a recipient of something that seems like “insider information,” consider and challenge the source, and if it is important enough that you feel compelled to pass it along, ASK those in actual authority or truly likely “in the know.”  I am sure that Mr. Crockett or Mr. Hodge can address concerns relating to the track; the stewards can address concerns regarding the rules or the Commission; and MaryAnn O’Connell or our board members can address concerns of a broader, industry-based nature.

We are in a challenging economic time, and influencing people about “facts” that are not facts, and causing emotional reactions detrimental to participation in our industry does not one of us any good - in either the short or longer term.

Okay, off my soap box for now.

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