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Emerald Downs

Muckleshoot Indian Tribe

Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association

Washington Horse Racing Commission

President's Message - February 2010

Greetings again from your WHBPA:

February 1 brought our first day of training back at Emerald Downs. The barns have been refilling (as of Tuesday, I understood that we were pretty much right with where we had been for horse count in 2009) with both returning veterans and plenty of babies, and the weather has been fairly cooperative to get the season underway. For all, I wish you the best of success (when not at my expense!) during the upcoming meet.

We are going to hold an informal general meeting of the WHBPA membership at the Quarter Chute Café on Saturday, February 27, at 12:30. We are hopeful that this time will allow everyone to complete their training duties, grab some lunch from Sally and Joe, and hear from your new board and our Executive Director. I will buy the coffee and provide some doughnuts if you cannot find the time to grab some lunch. The intent of the meeting is to provide you with an opportunity to hear from us, in an abbreviated set of reports, what we are doing at this time, and what we hope to have in the works during the year. We want to provide you with an opportunity to ask questions, to have them answered or worked on, and to perhaps ask a few questions of you. Come and meet me, available members of the board, and others. I will likely ask a member of the WTBA board to be present and a member of Emerald Downs management to be present to offer you their thoughts as well. I think that we will spend no more than 30 minutes in any presentation, and will take whatever time is necessary thereafter to answer questions you may have.

February 27 is also the date of the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association annual awards banquet. I understand that the cost is $45 per person or $85 for a couple. Please consider joining with many elements of your local industry to honor the winners and to just generally have a good time with some good people. Check with the WTBOA directly for time and location as I do not have that in front of me, but I do intend to attend together with a number of the WHBPA board and our “significant others.”

Since my last message to you, we have had another meeting of our WHBPA board, and the Washington Horse Racing Commission has met. The WHBPA board approved its 2009 financial results, which had a small deficit, for the first time in anyone’s memory, and approved its 2010 budget, which has a larger deficit. We are determined to not cut any of the services that are provided to members at this time, but we will take hard looks at this in the future. [By the way, many of us did not know that there are in fact two WHBPA entities: the administrative arm, which is the entity corresponding to you most of the time, has the board that negotiates the purse splits with Emerald Downs, sets policy, reviews and audits
handle and purse account availability, monitors the regulatory activities of the industry, assists with medication issues, etc.; separately, the benefit trust arm of the WHBPA, overseen by a board of trustees, is responsible for providing the benefits and assistance to our membership, and puts on the various events, such as the picnic, the Cinco de Mayo party for the backside help, and the Christmas party for the families of grooms and horsemen. Although both entities share our staff, the two functions and entities are separate
].

We have also approved our participation in a number of initiatives which we hope can help spur some interest in our sport. More about that below, as I have an “ask” of our members.

The Washington Horse Racing Commission met yesterday. As part of the meeting, Emerald Downs made a change, reducing the number of race days from 90 to 89. They struck the first Thursday of June from their planned calendar, citing too much pressure on the horse population following Memorial Day.

The Commission agreed and made final approval of their requested 89 days. The Commission also granted the dates sought by the Class C racetracks, and provided them with financial support for the 2010 meet by providing funding for their jockey insurance, and providing added funding to address any shortfalls the meets may have in providing jockey incentives to the fair meet riders. Unfortunately, the Commission made it clear to the Class C tracks that given the economic state of our industry, the Commission would not be in a position to fund them in subsequent years, and that the Class C tracks would have to come up with their own funding sources if they are to continue.

In my “pre-February message,” sent to provide you with the information on the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe’s Economic Development fund contribution to assist with our purses, I addressed the topic of the retired and unwanted horse. I have received feedback from various sources that this is an important message to get out, and I will continue to do so. Again, please consider making donations to the Prodigious Fund (which is matched by Emerald Downs) when signing up for your credentials, and also consider making your own direct and ongoing contributions to the facilities in this state that assist in the rehabilitation, retraining and placement of retired thoroughbreds.

Now, I want to get to “the ask” portion of this message. I would now like to see if I can get you involved in helping us out a bit. As I mentioned in my January message, the WHBPA Board held a “special meeting” in early December to discuss topics of “renewal of the industry.” The two key topics that were discussed during our meeting related to the importance of both the bettor and the owner, and finding ways of increasing participation of each now and going forward.

Among the ideas that were adopted was a plan to introduce new persons into some of the fun of “ownership” of a racehorse.

There are two programs that we are willing to try, in partnership with Emerald Downs. Both require the involvement of our owners. One that requires some time, and the other that requires a little bit of time but some money as well.

The first program has been used in other areas of the country, and has been popular in some ways in providing race fans a look in at ownership. The program is called, for the purposes of today, “Owner for a Day.” In this program, Emerald Downs will promote to the public the opportunity to pair members of the public with a willing owner on a race day. The owner would be responsible to meet with the fan, take them on a bit of a tour, explain to them all the good parts of being an owner, taking them to the paddock for the saddling and meeting with the jockeys experience, and them, watching the race with them, and then, hopefully, invite them into the winner’s circle for a photo. Emerald Downs will provide them with their admission for the day and with the photo, should the owner’s horse win that race. The idea is that the pairings will be random, based upon fan interest in coming a particular day, along with owners who are willing to do this on the days that one of their runners is racing. If you are someone who is willing to spend an hour or so with a fan, and provide them with some of the insight and excitement that ownership can bring, we would ask that you let us know, at the office, that you would be willing to support the “Owner for a Day” program.

The second program is one that we are committing to help with to replace the now-defunct “Win-AJockey” contest. It is one that requires owners to part with some of their purse earnings, and a little bit of time as well, to the extent that they can. We are referring to it, for now, as the “Win-A-Horse” contest. We are hoping to have a number of owners be willing to participate in this contest; the more of us willing to contribute to this effort, the more successful the contest will be for our intended purposes and the bigger the advertising effort that Emerald Downs will make for it.

As stated above, however, this second contest comes with the need for help from our owners, as it requires some financial cost and a limited amount of time investment. The “Win-A-Horse” contest will allow qualifying racetrack fans the opportunity to “win” a mythical ownership share in certain horses at the track. (Those certain horses are ones that our members allow to be included in the contest, as discussed below, are the ones involved). We would like to get as many horses, and their owners involved as possible, as the more that we involve, the more contest winners we can create.

The idea of the contest will be that only persons who do not have a license as a horse owner, trainer, exercise rider, jockey, groom, official, etc., or are also not employees of Emerald Downs or related to employees of Emerald Downs will be eligible. They will have to have a history of paid admission to come to the track (the details of that are being worked on by Emerald Downs, but perhaps a punch-card or some other tracking method will be used to find those eligible for entry). We want to have NEW blood involved, and only new blood that has some level of commitment to coming to the
track.

What we need from you: we need horses volunteered for which you would be willing to give up 5% of its purse (only) earnings to the contest winner; we would like you to be able to meet with the contest winner at least once, and show them the horse train in the morning, maybe buy them breakfast at the Quarter Chute (I believe that we can get this to be paid for by Emerald Downs), and walk them back to the barn area to give them a tour of where the horse lives and explain its routine to them. [You are not giving any actual ownership interest away to the contest winner; you are simply allocating a share of purse earnings in support of the contest].

Assuming the horse wins, the contest winner would be entitled to join you in the winner’s circle for a picture, and Emerald Downs would pay for them to have a copy of a picture. Emerald Downs would also hold the purse earnings for the contest winner.

We understand that making money in this business, without contributing to others, is challenging. We also clearly understand that this contest requires those who participate to make it work. But more than anything, we clearly understand that we need to take some actions in our industry to invite others to participate and to feel the thrill of having “their” horse go post-ward. We are hoping that through this contest, we can introduce some fans to a different level of thrill, and to perhaps have them invite some of their friends to see “their” horse go. And, with the best of luck, we might be able to entice some of these folks into a syndicate, a partnership, or sole ownership into an important need in our business model, new ownership.

We ask you to seriously consider placing a horse in this program. The owner-members of the WHBPA Board indicated that they would support this program by placing a horse in the contest, and we are very hopeful that you will, too. Imagine the promotion that Emerald Downs could do if we were able to offer a dozen or more horses for this contest! Imagine how many new people we could expose, with their family and friends, if we could get 20 horses involved for this contest! We need to give people a reason to be involved; this is one of our ideas to get them involved. We are very hopeful that you will support this program. If you are willing to do so, please contact the WHBPA office, and tell them that you are willing to support the “Win-A-Horse” project.

Also as discussed, the bettor is another very important aspect of the business. Among our concerns is a need for quality information, available to today’s audience, allowing them to feel comfortable at the race track, to understand their environs at the race track, and to understand wagering and handicapping. I am happy to report that Emerald Downs is working on preparing a series of video clips that will be on Comcast on Demand, on YouTube, and on their own website that will provide people unfamiliar with the race track environment an opportunity to view some short videos as orientation in this regard. I also learned, from speaking with Joe Withee, that there are a number of featured videos regarding Emerald Downs-related topics on YouTube.

If you have questions with things that your WHBPA can assist you with, please feel encouraged to contact the WHBPA office, at 253 804 6822. Either Lanna or MaryAnn will be happy to be of assistance to you.

Looking forward to seeing you at our informal meeting on February 27…

Ron Maus

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

 

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