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FHBPA BOARD MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: TOM CANNELL

FHBPA Board Member - Tom Cannell

FHBPA Board Member – Tom Cannell

Tom Cannell is currently is serving his 3rd term on the FHBPA Board, and has announced he will not seek re-election when his Board term expires.

“I have enjoyed my time on the board and particularly as 1st Vice President the past 2 years. Working closely with Bill White, I feel that the board, in general, has made great strides in developing a solid business attitude. I take this responsibility very seriously and due to personal constraints, I will be stepping down at the end of this term year”, he stated.

When asked, Tom recalled why he initially ran for a Board seat. “As a new owner back then, I was in Bill White’s barn and came in probably more than he liked. As I do now, I had tremendous enthusiasm for the game and the more I learned the more I wanted to know. When the election time came around Bill encouraged me to “give it a try”, but I thought to myself, who even knows me”.

With that thought in mind, Tom wrote his first bio, and it must have been quite impressive because he won a seat that year and has been elected a total of 3 times.

“I spoke from the heart, I wanted to see if I could make a difference. I have been in the business world for over 45 years and as an executive tried to help make every stop a better place than when I arrived. For me, the time was right to throw my name into the hat and see where I could help out”.

Bill White, President of the FHBPA said, “On behalf of the Florida HBPA and the entire Board, I’d like to thank Tom for his many contributions during his years of service on the board. We will miss him and wish him all the best in his retirement”.

MORE ABOUT TOM CANNELL

Where are you from?

I am a native of Canton, Ohio. Married to my beautiful wife Barb and we have 4 children and 8 grandchildren.

How did you get involved in Horse Racing?

I have been a fan since the early 70’s when I did some media work at Thistledown. I was one of those guys who didn’t know what they didn’t know about racing by studying the Racing Form.

What memory stands out most?

I would say it was our first winner, a 2-year-old gelding named Somes Sound, trained by Bill. He broke his maiden on the Friday after Thanksgiving 2006. I remember driving down from Gainesville with my friend Steve Kelly, watching the race, being very excited and then driving the 5 hours back home. That might tell you the kind of high you get after the first win. I must add that fortunately we have had many winners over the years in Windstorm Stable and with the Posse group headed by long term horseman Jack Damico. I can say that the euphoric feeling you get in the winner’s circle never gets old.

Talk about your time on the FHBPA Board.

The world of racing has completely turned over since I joined the Board in 2008. We lived in Pembroke Pines when we moved down in 1996. I remember going over to Calder on weekends when there was a large crowd every day. That is no longer the case. With the advent of legalized online wagering, those same bettors can now place their wagers from the comfort of their living rooms. That has resulted in lower onsite handle reflecting stagnated purses despite the hope that slots were going to fuel a better purse structure. Future boards will have to wrestle with this so that a fair share of this total revenue impacts the lot of the horsemen. Let’s face it, the future of racing is cloudy at best as the legislators seek to find the pot of gold from gaming interests and look less and less at the impact of the game here in Florida and around the country.

The past few elections has seen more business owners and an attorney get elected to Board seats, people, who I feel can and will get their arms around these many critical issues facing the game. I am well pleased that it’s positioned to go forward and represent the best interests of the horsemen. Adding Executive Director Glen Berman, with his legal and medical background, has and will certainly prove to be a great hire. While I may be concluding my service to this Board, I look forward to seeing many friends that I have enjoyed, continuing to own and race in South Florida.

Most people who go to the race track would be stunned if they came in early some morning and witnessed all the activity that goes on. My first visit to the backstretch was a jaw dropper. Why, because it’s a little city of its own, back then Calder had 50-60 barns teeming with activity, horses coming and going, trainers on the move in golf carts, all the hot walkers, and grooms, you have no idea all that is going on behind the scenes 24/7/365. It’s the dedication of all these people working tirelessly day after day whether it’s working with Handicap horses or the bottom claimers, these people never get the respect they deserve.

Anything else you want to add?

On a lighter note, sports have been my whole life outside of the insurance business. Back in Canton, I spent 14 years broadcasting Indians Baseball AA games, high school playoffs and college football and basketball. 

I played 4 years of Baseball and Golf at what is now known as Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. In 1991 I was inducted into the Stark County Amateur Hall of Fame.

As I wrap up this visit, which I appreciate, I would be remiss in not acknowledging my wife Barb, whose patience and encouragement allowed me the time to dedicate my best efforts to the FHBPA.