President's Message - June 13, 2013
Greetings to the members of the WHBPA:
I wanted to give you all an update on our season and the activities of your board.
However, I would like to start off by reminding everyone of the fundraiser this coming Saturday evening, June 15, after the races, to help out jockey Gallyn "Booger" Mitchell who suffered a significant setback when he had a substantial heart attack a few weeks back, shortly after working some horses. I am happy to report that in my last chat with Booger, he indicated that he was feeling well, and was looking forward to working his way back to the saddle, and I hope that remains on target and in the cards for him. More certainly, however, are the bills and income loss that he has suffered due to this condition, and many members of our industry are pulling together to provide a fundraiser to help out the Mitchells after the races on Saturday. I am not aware of all of the particulars in the evening's program, but I do know that there will be auction items a-plenty as well as a meal and space being donated by Emerald Downs.
While having a community pull together to help one of its own is becoming less common, it is no less important at this time. Every one of us has benefitted from Booger's time at Emerald Downs – in many ways, he is THE face of Emerald Downs, being its most recognizable character, and one who has ridden in every season we have enjoyed at the track. Gallyn has been legged up on winners for many of us, and even if you have never ridden him on board one of your horses, it is a safe bet that you have won (and maybe lost) a few dollars at the windows on horses he has ridden during the races over the 17 seasons we have held meets here at Emerald Downs. I know that everyone faces hurdles and challenges, but for our local horse-racing community, it is hard to imagine someone who has touched so many of us in some way. I am very hopeful then, that we will find a way to come together as an industry and to "pitch in" to help out the Mitchell family on Saturday evening. I hope to see you there.
Back to the races. While we are having some ups and downs with respect to our field sizes, there are some elements of great news. First, although there are races in which we send out some very short fields, our average number of starters in the gate is up this year over last year, from just over 6 per race to nearly 7 per race. This is a great fact at a time when horse population is challenged. Second, handle at Emerald Downs is off a bit versus last year, but is not off as much as it is nationally or for many other venues. And it does not reflect a loss in our selling, which is great news.
We are about to embark into the two year old season. I am always excited by two year old races and the unopened gifts that are sitting beneath the tree, so to speak. When unwrapped will it be a thrilling present, or one that we want to exchange? We can never tell until they get in that gate and show us what kind of class they have – looking that other horse in the eye and wanting to beat him or her, or wanting to wilt from greater rigors than were faced in the morning workouts. An exciting time of year for all of us.
Last, I wanted to update you on a couple of items that our board and Condition Book committee have done, in response to the horses we are running and based on our conclusions regarding some requests made by certain members of the WTBOA board. In the new Condition Book 4 that is about to be released (or might have been, I have not been to the track in a week), you will see that we will offer a condition to allow Washington-bred horses the opportunity for a second pass at two conditions of claiming races – the claiming $20,000 and $25,000 non-winners of 2 races (lifetime) and the first level allowance. That is, a Wa-bred winner of a $20,000N2L or $25,000N2L race can run in the same race again; similarly, a Wa-bred winner of a first level allowance race will also remain eligible to do so again, just as has been done in recent years in California. This is being done to allow a possible advantage to Wa-breds, and to allow our breeders some added incentive to talk about as to advantages of buying Wabreds. We have also been working with the Race Office to offer more races restricted to Wabreds in the Condition Book; our current contract with Emerald Downs requires that one such race be offered each day (reflecting state law, I believe); we will see more days with two such races offered, and, if successful, we will trend toward more days being offered in that fashion in future Condition Books.
I think that is it for the present time; I hope to see many of you at the Mitchell fundraising event on Saturday evening!
Good luck and good racing!