My first two weeks as Executive Director of the FHBPA, culminating with the record-setting Fountain of Youth Day at Gulfstream Park, have been quite eventful.
In addition to all the new names and faces, I encountered many friends and acquaintances from my home town of Chicago during that time.
Among the familiar faces were owners, trainers, track officials and track employees – some just visiting and some relocated to South Florida.
Distinctly unfamiliar to me were the massive crowds, $2 million plus/race handles, and the volume of high quality horses, trainers and jockeys.
I am used to the propagandist casino lobby in Illinois arguing that Illinois tracks should not get gaming to fund the ‘dying’ horse racing industry. It is more than a little disconcerting to hear proponents of decoupling in Florida begin their discussions referencing that same, worn-out refrain.
Dying? At Gulfstream? Hardly.
It is clear that the anti-horse racing interests will attempt to shove that round peg in wherever it can – even into the square hole that is Florida thoroughbred racing and breeding. It is up to the horsemen to fight for our industry. Tell the naysayers to try and find a parking spot at Gulfstream on a Thursday, let alone on the weekend, and then let’s discuss the health of thoroughbred horse racing in Florida.
From someone who has watched Florida racing from afar, it is clearly the envy of most other racing jurisdictions. The vast majority of tracks don’t hold a candle to Gulfstream Park and most states can only dream of a breeding industry like Florida’s.
It is unfathomable that the State of Florida would be complicit with pulling the plug on this enormously successful industry with all of the jobs and positive economic impact it provides to the state.
I arrive at the Florida HBPA, humbled by the success of my predecessors, and ready to work to protect and advance the interests of the horsemen here – to keep it great and make it greater.