President's Message - March 18, 2013
Greetings to the members of the WHBPA:
As I write this, we are just five weeks from opening the 2013 meeting at Emerald Downs. I have five horses in training at Emerald at present, and I am about as excited as anyone for the coming season. Unfortunately for me, I have been spending a great deal of the winter traveling (I composed most of this message from a seat on an airplane to Seattle yesterday, and will be taking a flight to Anchorage this evening). As a result, other than ferrying my horses to and from the track when I have time between trips, I have not spent too much time at Emerald Downs early this season.
Among the things accomplished this winter was the revision in the L&I policy and premiums, which we believe should be more equitable to all trainers, and should allow for trainers from British Columbia, Portland, Phoenix, or Northern California to make short stays at our track on a more cost-effective basis. Hats off to MaryAnn O'Connell and Lanna Allen, our HBPA staff, who doggedly worked with L&I and the Washington State Racing Commission to succeed in making this happen in response to requests from many of our members. Although legislative approval is required to move forward on this permanently, without opposition it is expected to receive the support of sufficient "Olympians" to make this happen.
This moment represents a good time to bring you up to speed on your board of directors, and the positions in which they will serve you for the coming year. Our board consists of 11 positions: there are five owner-directors (Jack Fabulich, Karla Laird, Pat LePley, Sue Spooner, and Keith Swagerty); five trainer-directors (Robbie Baze, Diane Garrison, Terry Gillihan, Margo Lloyd, and Greg Moore); and the president, which role I fill. We also appoint a Vice-President to serve in the absence of the president: Jack Fabulich has agreed to continue his longtime service in that position.
Our new and current board met for the first time on December 19, at which time we were able to thank our outgoing and continuing directors, and to welcome Margo and Greg, who joined our team at that time. We went through the process of selecting, volunteering, and being volunteered for various committees, and as we head into the year, we have established the following committees:
Committee Member selections were approved as follows:
Condition Book Committee
Track and Safety Committee
To provide you with a rough idea of what these committees are responsible for, I offer you the very briefest of summaries, based upon my practical recollections, and without reference to the by-laws:
Our Finance Committee is interested in our annual budgets, the interim and annual financial statements, decisions affecting use of our monetary assets, filing of tax reports, and occasional tests of the records.
Our Legislative Committee is involved with monitoring the events in Olympia that affect our industry, and to provide us with information as to dealing with issues affecting the Racing Commission, the state Labor and Industries department, and general legislation affecting us. See a separate paragraph below on the current issues being addressed.
Our Condition Book Committee works with the owners and trainers and the Racing Office at the track to advocate for a system of offerings that allow us to maximize racing opportunities for our owners and trainers with the fullest fields, hoping to attract the greatest handle (to achieve the best purses available to us) on an overall basis.
Our Track and Safety Committee serves as the voice of the trainers to work with track management and the track superintendent to obtain the most consistent surface that we can on a regular basis. It is also responsible to provide feedback to track management about issues on and off the track surface that can lead to safety improvements or removal of acute dangers to horse, rider, groom, and trainer.
Our By-Law Committee is responsible to monitor our by-laws and keep them current to reflect the ongoing realities of how we should be organized to pursue our interests. The by-laws were updated at a general meeting two years ago, and are considered fairly up to date; at this time, I do not believe that there will be any activity in this committee without member inquiry for change.
Each of these committees, except by-laws, is or should be busy at this time of the season and throughout the meet.
Finance is in need of completing the 2012 financial results and in getting our 2013 budget together for approval; with the overall sustained decreases in handle, our primary source of income, we will also be looking at a long-term plan for continuing the entity. Unfortunately, we have been losing money over the last few years at an alarming rate, and we will have to address that in the current year.
Legislative is busy monitoring the current session of the current legislature in session in Olympia. There is a bill currently working its way through the various committees that can be helpful to racing in Washington. As currently written, it provides support to both the fair meets, as well as to the Racing Commission, which, if passed, would provide some cost relief to Emerald Downs and some amount of potential purse enhancement for the horsemen. At this time, we are not seeking public action to contact your legislators, but I may, in the coming weeks, seek your assistance in "rallying around the flag" of the industry. Standby for that…
Condition Book efforts are underway. A recent draft of the first condition book is out and ready for comment. I understand that this book came about with a good deal of discussion between horsemen and track personnel, so hopefully it is hitting the sweet spot. I did recently obtain some correspondence from an owner seeking to have a renewed favorable angle for Washington–bred horses; I understand from looking at correspondence that a spirited discussion is forming on that front. Regardless of what is done in that regard, we always will seek to balance the interests of all horsemen by working with the track to maintain the largest fields that we can. That is a challenge with the diminishing number of horses in training locally and across the country, so there are sensitive decisions that are going to be made to try to maximize field sizes to increase handle to benefit all of us.
Track and Safety representatives want to hear from you with respect to issues that you feel are important. When acute issues arise needing immediate attention, please try to get hold of Robbie Baze, Margo Lloyd, or Greg Moore, but if they are not available, get hold of the track superintendent's office as needed.
One of the most significant discussions that we routinely hear in our positions relate to the moisture content of the track, or the speed at which our track surface allows horses to travel. Critical in all of these discussions is the simple fact that all of us, track management and horsemen alike, are first and foremost interested in the safety and welfare of horse and rider. While it is important to understand that the low breakdown and fatality rate at Emerald Downs has been among the industry leaders for safe dirt surfaces over the last several years, we must all remain vigilant in our efforts to keep it that way. One of the concerns that came up last year had to do with the hours the track was available for training; some among us wanted the track to be opened later in the morning for training, particularly with a lowered horse count on the grounds. At that time we learned that the track superintendent tries to monitor and maximize the moisture content in the track (it is safest when sufficient moisture is in it to create cushion) both for training and for racing; obviously, the earliest time in the morning will have the greatest natural moisture in the track (following the dew point and before the warmth of the day commences evaporation, which starts at temperatures over freezing) and our afternoon racing program in warmer months also requires more time to put more water on the track between training and racing, to offset the continuous evaporation faced each day. While I do not know where this issue will head again this year, please keep in mind that while we monitor the situation, we do not have the final call on the safety considerations – those are the responsibility of the track, as it is their surface. We do our best to offer suggestions and concerns, but few of us actually have the training to provide recommendations that are meaningful or beyond anecdotal in nature.
With respect to our Washington State Horse Racing Commission, after many years of service, Bud Hallowell retired from his service as a the breeder's representative on the Commission. I enjoy Bud a great deal, as I am sure all of those who know him do, and thank him for his service and wish him the very best. Additionally, there has been a change in the Executive Director seat, as Bob Lopez has retired after a long career with the State Patrol and Racing Commission, and Doug Moore will now fill the role of Executive Secretary for the State. We offer a "Hail and Farewell" to Doug and Bob, wishing them the best of success in work and retirement, respectively.
MaryAnn O'Connell, our Executive Director of the Washington HBPA, recently returned from our mutual trip to the National HBPA winter convention in Clearwater, Florida, where we were treated to visit Tampa Bay Downs as part of the convention. Tampa Bay Downs is a beautiful little track in northern Florida, with history and winter racing that sets a few three year olds onto the Kentucky Derby trail. At the same time, when I see a track such as Tampa Bay Downs or Canterbury, or Turf Paradise, or even Golden Gate Fields, I am filled with gratitude and pride that we are able to race at Emerald Downs, where the facilities are truly maintained on the backside and in the grandstand in a first-class manner.
While there, we learned a great deal more about the issues on the medication debates (as well as other subjects) that are clearly going to continue for a while. We heard from Dr. Larry Bramlage, the famous on-television veterinarian surgeon who is also a member of the board of The Jockey Club. What Dr. Bramlage informed us, in no uncertain terms, is that we have a true gulf in our sport between what we know is medically right for our horses, and what certain well-intended but, in my view, horribly misdirected folks, believe is necessary for public perception. Four veterinarians, including Dr. Bramlage and two research scientists and the vet believed to have the largest practice in the United States, made clear that the use of Lasix (or salix or furosemide as it is also known) is both beneficial to the horse for the purposes of controlling bleeding, and has no identifiable side-effects relating to loss of calcium from the bones, or any aspect that would be expected to affect breeding. It is the position of the National HBPA and the Washington HBPA that science should guide our decisions regarding the health and welfare of horse and rider, and that science leads us to understand that reducing incidents of Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage ("EIPH"), through the use of Lasix, is the most humane and safest course of action available to us at present.
Interestingly enough, as part of this ongoing Lasix discussion, we are constantly hearing about how the Europeans don't use Lasix on race day. Well, we understand that to be true, most of the time, but they do use Lasix to train on. Instead, we have come to learn – a little bit more and more all the time, that the "pristine" Euros instead try to use illegal anti-bleeding medications on race day, and try to use those that are not detectable. I recently received a finding from 2011 of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, a self-policing arm of the British Horseracing Authority, wherein a vet there was found to have illegally, on race day, injected a substance known as "tranexamic acid" into a horse owned by Her Majesty, The Queen! From reading the transcript of the findings, it appears that it is fairly well-known that the Brits use this "tranexamic acid" as well as another drug, called Dycenene, (and perhaps others not discussed in the finding that I was provided) to address race day EIPH on an illegal basis, hoping that these items are undetectable. Interestingly, the accused vet in that matter, highly wellrespected and practicing since 1982, thought that what he was doing was in the best interests of the horse. Trying to limit EIPH is in the best interests of the horse? Interesting idea; we do that here in the United States and call the drug Lasix.
I serve as the Secretary/Treasurer of the National HBPA, and as a result, have a number of duties with them as well that take up some of my time. Among the important issues that National is addressing at present, beyond medication, are immigration matters, trainer continuing education matters, and a great deal of focus on recent federal government initiatives and requests by competing gaming interests that might be detrimental to our interests. We will continue to monitor those issues and we will ask for your support, when needed, to contact your congressional representative.
I intend to hold a board meeting very shortly, and we will again have a pre-season meeting of the HBPA members to provide you with a report on our activities, and to address any comments or questions that you may have.
Thank you for taking the time to read this message. If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me at email@example.com.
Best to you in racing,