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
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.
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…
If you have comments or questions, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.