Serving Florida's Thoroughbred Horse Racing Owners, Trainers and Horsemen

Executive Director’s Message


FHBPA President Bill White, Vice President Chester Bishop and I visited Hialeah Park last week to witness the “quarter horse racing” that is being run there.

The facility itself appears to be in fine shape, although walking through the grandstand is like visiting a closed museum. A very nice slots facility and simulcast center, although not well attended on that Thursday afternoon, are housed inside the north end of the grandstand.

Then there is the so-called racing. Twenty doubleheaders of eight, two-horse “races” are being put on in front of a handful of people in the grandstand, with nearly zero handle. This charade is being done by Hialeah ostensibly in an attempt to meet the statutory requirements to maintain its gaming permit.

Hialeah management has thrown history and any sense of pride out the window and is shamelessly following the Gretna/Oxford/Hamilton Downs model. They have ‘contracted’ with a bogus horsemen’s group and are presenting bogus racing in an apparent effort to circumvent the spirit, if not the letter of the law, knowing that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering is likely to do nothing about it.

There is no state racing commission in Florida whose purpose would include taking action in the best interest of racing. Instead, we have a state agency that, as it did when Calder bulldozed its grandstand, turns a blind eye to these self-decoupling activities.

The FHBPA has not, and cannot sit idly by as this horse racing industry-crushing activity continues.


Glen Berman, FHBPA Executive Director



DPMW Likely To Toss All Pending Serum Positives

The Division of Pari-Mutuel Racing entered a Final Order in an alleged serum positive case on March 24, 2017 which resulted in a finding that the Division had failed to prove its allegations as a result of improper procedures in handling serum samples in the test barn. The improper procedures involved the opening of the samples in the test barn at the end of the day after the trainers or trainers’ representatives had witnessed the samples being sealed earlier. The Division also filed an emergency rule on blood sampling, effective on March 24, 2017, which is intended to correct the improper test barn procedures for the handling of serum samples.

This Final Order should result in the dismissal of all pending positive serum tests in Florida which may number in the hundreds. Those that already agreed to a disposition with the Division on their cases may or may not have any recourse. This decision and rule change was the result of one of our trainer members stepping up and being a test case, and the fine legal work of attorney Brad Beilly who, together, won their case.

Another pending case being handled by Mr. Beilly, which the FHBPA testified at, involves the way the Division handles split samples. The improper procedure alleged in that case involves the Division sending a portion of the already tested single sample upon request as the “split sample” to another lab instead of having the samples split when drawn and sending the separate sample as a split sample to another lab for verification. This has led the Division to set a first development workshop toward rule change on April 11, 2017 in Tallahassee in advance of a final decision in that case.

If you have any questions about these matters, please contact Glen at the FHBPA office.


Despite a very successful and fairly seamlessly run 2017 election for FHBPA Board of Directors, which just concluded, there has been some commentary on a public forum bemoaning the notice of, and participation in, this election.

The FHBPA has made significant changes in its voting process from past practices. What formerly consisted of mailing, receiving, opening and counting of ballots by FHBPA employees at the FHBPA trailer, was this year handled exclusively by a professional voting service.

Under the direction of Director Daryl Clark, a Florida-based owner and breeder, and the FHBPA Election Committee, the following actions were taken for the 2017 election:

  • 5100 ballots were mailed to owners and trainers printed both in English and Spanish (1st time)
  • Members were given the choice of mailing their completed ballots in postage paid envelopes provided as in the past but also had the option of voting online (1st time)
  • Election information was also forwarded by email to the more than 1,000 members for whom we have email addresses (1st time)
  • Notices of the election were posted on our website, daily on the overnights, at the bookkeepers office, on Facebook, on Twitter and in text blasts and weekly email blasts, among other ways
  • Our Nominating Meeting is a regular annual event as we have elections every year, and it is part of our General Membership Meeting. Five seats are open every year for 3-year terms on the 15 member board
  • Our Nominating Meeting was posted all of the above ways, was posted on an electric sign at the stable security gate and was advertised on the Paulick Report which also posted a story about our Nominating Meeting in advance of it. The release announcing the Nominating Meeting also appeared on the Blood Horse, Horse Racing Nation and the National HBPA website
  • The Nominating Meeting was open and free to all members with a buffet dinner at the Sport of Kings Theatre which has been the site of recent Eclipse Awards dinners.

There are always improvements that can be made and we will review this election process in preparation for next year’s election. The total ballots cast, however, was 16% higher than last year even though the membership number was down 15%.

We could have a long discussion about why more owners and trainers don’t step up and run for horsemen’s boards and why there isn’t a higher percentage of members that vote.

At least in our case, this year, I do not believe it was from a lack of thought, effort and/or notice.

Personnel Roster Enforcement Announcement


FHBPA has been advised that the State will soon be enforcing the requirement of all Trainers of Record at GP, GPW and Palm Meadows to have completed and up-to-date Personnel Rosters on file with the Racing Secretary and available for inspection by the State’s Chief Inspector. The applicable Rule is 61D-6.002(1).

Personnel Roster forms are available at the FHBPA office at Gulfstream or by clicking below.


Note to Legislators – Thoroughbred Racing in South Florida is Thriving

The horse racing industry in Florida is world-renowned for both its breeding and racing of thoroughbreds. The Ocala area boasts most of the State’s breeding farms and helps make Florida the second largest producer of thoroughbred racehorses in the United States after Kentucky. Racing in Florida, and particularly at Gulfstream Park, is the envy of most racing jurisdictions in the country with a combination of home-bred horses and out of state horses causing field sizes to be well above the national average.

A 2014 study revealed that the Florida horse racing industry supports more than 12,000 in-state jobs, pays those workers more than $400 million in wages and benefits each year, and generates an economic impact for the State of nearly one billion dollars annually. It is safe to say that approximately half of those workers are employed by trainers who race their horses in South Florida and the vast majority of those workers are minorities.

Live thoroughbred racing in South Florida is a growing, year-round industry with 10 months of racing at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach and 2 months of racing at Gulfstream Park West located in Miami Gardens.

In 2015, Gulfstream Park achieved a record handle (amounts wagered) of $1.34 billion which represented a 14% increase over the previous record handle of $1.17 billion set in 2014.

The upward trend continues in 2016 as the Gulfstream Championship Meet from December 2015 to April 2016 achieved a record handle which was 15% higher than the previous record handle set the year before. Gulfstream also set an all-time record Florida Derby Day handle in 2016 when more than $32 million was wagered on April 2nd this year. Gulfstream Park horse racing continues to be a major tourism attraction for South Florida and fan interest is on the upswing.

The typical racehorse trainer operates an independent business which has 6 to 8 horses in training and employs from 4 to 8 people per year. The out-of-pocket cost of training a racehorse is approximately $25,000 – $30,000 per year. Most of that cost goes to workers who care for the horses on a daily basis. Other costs include feed and bedding from local producers and local veterinary and blacksmith care. With a racehorse population of 2,500 year-round in South Florida, the direct economic impact of the upkeep alone for these horses to the local economy is approximately $70 million every year. Racehorses start their careers at age 2 or 3. Getting a racehorse to the track is also a very labor-intensive effort. From breeding, to foaling, to raising and training the horse for 2-3 years, many workers and suppliers of goods are involved in the process.

The owners of a typical racehorse have invested at least $100,000 into each horse before the horse even starts its racing career. For the horses racing in South Florida that represents an initial investment of at least $250 million. And with an average racing career that ends at around 6 years old, owners must replenish their stables and renew that $250 million investment every 3-4 years.

The loss of guaranteed racing opportunities that would surely come if casino Decoupling were allowed in Florida, would cripple this thriving thoroughbred industry, cost scores of jobs for Florida workers and would have an ever-lasting negative effect on the State’s economy.

( Attention horsemen – This is a letter that can be handed to legislators you meet with this summer. If you would like a pdf version, please forward a request to ).

May 10, 2019


Thoroughbred racing appears to have dodged the decoupling bullet for another year in the State legislature. The once yearly session ended on May 4 with no gaming bill being filed. But there was one in the hopper that apparently included total decoupling of the requirement of facilities to offer a minimum of pari-mutuel days at pari-mutuel facilities that offer gaming. The bill apparently also included no purse pool for thoroughbreds to make up for expected losses to thoroughbred purses. Newly elected Governor Ron DeSantis called a meeting of all pari-mutuel stakeholders in the state on April 26 to discuss the pending bill that was presented to him. After listening to the positions of most in attendance, including the FHBPA, the Governor stated that he would have been derelict in his duty not to hear from this group before moving forward and that it was clear that more work on the bill needed to be done. Also purportedly included in the bill was sports betting at all pari-mutuels and sports arenas with the Seminole casino acting as the hub. There was no indication that horsemen would have received anything from sports betting other what we might receive contractually with our tracks. Needless today these issues remain on our radar for the coming year.

Calder is not waiting for legislative relief to decouple from horse racing as it has received authority from the state to build a jai alai fronton and use that pari-mutuel activity as its basis to continue its gaming operation. The jai alai fronton appeared to be completely built in May and an opening may occur this spring or summer. Calder/Churchill Downs, Inc. constructed the fronton in the face of lawsuits brought by the FHBPA regarding the issuance of the jai alai permit and also the destruction of the former grandstand pari-mutuel facility which are still pending. The jai alai lawsuit questions the legitimacy and propriety of the state’s actions and as of early May the judge in that case allowed Ocala Breeders Sales Company and the breeders’ association to intervene in the FHBPA case over the objection of Calder. The FHBPA and Gulfstream have contracts with Calder to have thoroughbred racing there through 2020.


The FHBPA holds annual elections for five of its fifteen director positions which have three-year terms. In this year’s election owners Tom Cannell and Herb Oster along with trainer David Fawkes won re-election to three year terms. Trainer Carlo Vaccarezza, who had been a one-year alternate last year, also was elected to a three-year term. New to the FHBPA Board is trainer Patrick Biancone who was elected to a three-year term. One-year alternate positions went to trainer Marcus Vitale and nineteen-year-old owner Nicholas Vaccarezza.

Attorney owner Stephen Screnci was unanimously re-elected by the Board to be President of the FHBPA for 2019-2020. Screnci also serves as Regional Vice President of the National HBPA. The Executive Board for this year consists of owner Chester Bishop as 1st Vice President, trainer Joe Orseno as 2nd Vice President, owner Herb Oster as 3rd Vice President, owner Tom Cannell as Treasurer and trainer Chuck Simon as Secretary.