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Emerald Downs

Muckleshoot Indian Tribe

Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association

Washington Horse Racing Commission

President's Message - June 2010

Greetings from your WHBPA:

I am pleased to see that we have had increasing entries over the last few weeks – in fact, I note that we averaged 8.0, 8.0, 8.3, and 8.4 horses entered per race for the Friday through Monday dates that was held at Emerald Downs this Memorial Day weekend. While there may be a scratch or two in there to come, the average starters per race will go a long way toward helping out with handle. Great job, everyone, especially with our first foray into a four day week of racing!

A couple of quick items, and then the longer ones:

First, to those of you so inclined to attend the Breeders Cup races at Churchill Downs in early November, the Breeders Cup has granted WHBPA members access to their early purchase dates for “Friends and Family.” This gives anyone interested an opportunity for far better seat selections than are available when sold to the general public and generally less competition on the website for seating.

We will be sending you a special announcement and link on this tomorrow. We are happy to be able to do this, and are hopeful that this can be an annual opportunity for WHBPA members. Having attended several Breeders Cup events, I can say that it is impossible to top for viewing the premier horses in the world, at incredible facilities. Those of us at Santa Anita last year will never forget the charge of Zenyatta to win the Classic.

We owe Dora Delgado, an Executive Vice President with Breeders Cup, a large “thank you” for including us in the early “Friends and Family” purchasing; Ms. Delgado has become a bit of an annual pen-pal with me regarding tickets, and recently offered to let the WHBPA members “in” on this offer. One piece of advice: if you use Google Chrome as your internet browser, turn it off for the purpose of using the Breeders Cup ticket website – Chrome tends to crash. Other browsers seem to work fine with it.

Second, we are soon going to add a “classified ad” section to our website, in furtherance of our “Horsemen Helping Horsemen” theme. We will work out the details and advise you of this soon, but our intent is to have a place where our members can list items to sell or trade that might be of interest to others in the industry. In order to avoid some level of clutter, we will come up with a nominal monthly charge to post something, but it will be nominal and intended only to require people to pay attention to what we post for them and to allow us to take anything down that goes unpaid. We are hoping this might be a nice way to have people exchange needs, sell used tack, perhaps help someone find a home for a horse or two…

Moving on to more regular topics, I would like to report that at the request of a number of our trainer members, and trainer board members, we and I did in fact speak a few times with Emerald Downs management personnel regarding moving the training time back to 6:00 a.m. Some felt that the reduced overall number of horses at the track allowed an opportunity to start training at 6:30 a.m., and to have a bit more rest, especially in light of the timing of our races. The 6:00 a.m. time has historically been used at Emerald Downs each year, and has moved with the light, and the water table, earlier and later.

Ultimately, track management determined that they believed that in the best interests of safety of the equine and human athletes, it is best to train earlier, when there is more moisture in the racetrack, and to take advantage of as much moisture is in the track prior to major evaporation. Closing the track ½ hour earlier than would be possible if training started at 6:30, allows the track superintendent to get two more passes with the water truck onto the track prior to the 2:00 starts on the weekend dates. The general belief is that having water on the track is critical to the safety of the athletes involved, and I agree that is most critical. One important benefit of the issue is the fact that we have had good discussions regarding the mutual commitment of the horsemen and the track management to the safety of the horses and riders.

In early May, I provided a few comments with respect to the relative positions of the entities in the industry. I received some feedback, all of it generally positive, but one of my new friends in the business, who has been involved in the industry well before I started wagering, wanted me to point out that the WTBOA does far more than just sell horses. So, I do want to include mention of the fact that the breeding industry is far wider than just selling horses and that it has tremendous economic reach within this state. Tremendous investment in property is made: acreage to grow crops and raise stock; many thousands of tons of crops are grown, harvested, and sold in support of that stock; fencing, sheds, and barns are all built in support of the stock; trucks and trailers are purchased and used for private hauling, and grain, grass, and horse hauling companies are all part of our industry – and all of these components have taxpayer impact and issues. WTBOA has historically been involved in legislative matters, and continues, along with Emerald Downs, the WHBPA, and others, to monitor what goes on in our state government.

Although I will not be able to attend the Washington Horse Racing Commission meeting on June 11, there are going to be a few items on the agenda that you will want to be aware of, and may want to weigh in on. Based upon the “buzz” that I have heard, two of those items are most important to people who race and who are involved with the breeding aspect of the industry.

The first of the two items involves a rule discussion by the Commission as to whether or not to allow, under certain circumstances, multiple entries by a single trainer in other than stakes races. This rule was offered initially in response to a request by Emerald Downs to allow them the flexibility to obtain multiple uncoupled entries from trainers in a race in order to improve the number of betting interests being offered to the public. The idea is based upon the clear fact that handle is improved with increased numbers of betting interests, and as handle drives our purse structure, and helps the racetrack, was offered for that purpose. The WHBPA Board discussed this rule earlier this year; we did not vote on it at
that time, but certain of our Board members had a clear disdain for it.

The second of the two items relates to an effort by the WTBOA to become the agency responsible for certifying horses as Washington-Bred, and thus eligible for Washington-Bred owners and breeders awards. Please see the WTBOA statement with respect to this issue; if you did not receive it in email, it can be located at http://www.washingtonthoroughbred.com/News/News226.htm. The Washington Racing Commission is interested in your feedback on this topic, and has set up a poll on its website, at http://www.whrc.wa.gov/. The poll and related information is in the first column, and has links to a legal opinion prepared by the Office of the Attorney General, the three options that the WHRC offers in its poll (Option 1, leave certification as is, solely in the hands of The Jockey Club; Option 2, move certification of Washington-Breds to the WTBOA; and Option 3, a compromise position, that allows for certification of Washington-Breds by either the WTBOA or The Jockey Club. WTBOA would ask that you
support Option 2, allowing them to charge a fee to certify a foal as being Washington-Bred, which would be a fee in addition to the fee that must be paid to The Jockey Club to register the horse to be recognized in the national registry.

Whatever your position, the WHRC needs your input and feedback and asks that you provide it a response on the survey. You can respond to the survey and you can also attend the WHRC meeting to address neither, either, or both of these topics if you like.

Last, I had once suggested that I would discuss the topic of ethics in horse sales. I will be (for me) brief, but I was reminded of this topic the other day when I read the story of the recently deceased Hall of Fame runner, Skip Away. When Skip Away was purchased at auction, for $30,000, his owner and future Hall of Fame trainer, Sonny Hine, discovered he had a chip in a knee. The sellers were consulted, and agreed to reduce the sales value to $20,000, with the difference being a reflection of the cost of the surgery and lay-up, or the reduced value of the horse, with the chip. To me, that is a reflection of an ethical seller, acting in the best interest of the industry, by not leaving the buyer with a disdain for dealing with that seller, and not having anything but a fair experience.

My own experience earlier this year was a little different, and left me feeling betrayed by the seller, and less pleased to be part of the industry. I bought a horse at auction who turned out to be a cribber. Not announced as a cribber by the sales organization, and not acknowledged as a cribber by the seller. I have owned cribbers in the past, and I would not have willingly purchased a cribber. Regardless of the (debatable) effect on their racing, they cause damage to property at rates higher than others. When I learned of the fact of the horse’s cribbing and contacted the seller, 72 hours had passed, and under the conditions of the sale, I was at the mercy of the ethics of the seller. As far as I was concerned, the consignor and selling owner exhibited none. I would have sought a nominal credit for the added property damage I have experienced from other cribbers, but after waiting some time for a reply to my calls and emails, I was instead somewhat politely told to “pound sand.” Needless to say, I will never buy from that consignor (Grant Hofmans) again, I will likely not buy from that sales agency, and in a small way, the industry took a black eye, because I have shared it with you. Another of our fellow owners reported to me being stung by paying quite a bit for a colt at a recent WTBOA auction, discovered the horse had physical issues that would keep it from the track, and asked the consignor for some sharing of the grief. He, too, received the same treatment. I know his subsequent purchasing activity was reduced.

The truly good news is that those types of stories are few and far between. We have all been disappointed with auction purchases that did not turn out to be as good of runners as we hoped, but at least almost always, we thought we had made a square deal at the time of the auction. Hope springs eternal in our business; a buyer should have all the information that he or she deserves when offering to make a purchase, and if an error, intentional or not, is made by the seller, it should be addressed honorably.

In our experiences and industry efforts at coming out of the struggles, please do what you can to keep our Washington based racing industry free of black eyes. Short term gains can have long term impacts.

And that is my two cents on that…

See you at the races.

Ron Maus

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

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