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

President’s Message

Stephen Screnci New FHBPA President

Thoroughbred owner Stephen Screnci is the new President of Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, Inc., succeeding Bill White.

Originally from Massachusetts, Stephen was licensed as an attorney in 1993 before being licensed and moving to Florida in 1995. He owns his firm, Stephen W. Screnci, P.A. located in Boca Raton, and he has extensive experience in contract law.

Stephen owned his first thoroughbred race horses in the early 1990s running at Suffolk Downs and Rockingham Park. He got back into racing in South Florida around 2004 and has had hundreds of starts since then, including a graded stakes placed finisher.

Stephen has served as 1st Vice President of the FHBPA this past year and has been the Chairman of the FHBPA Contract Committee the past two years. Among his accomplishments was leading the 2017 contract negotiations with Gulfstream Park which resulted in the elimination of a lingering overpayment in the purse account and the increase in purses this year, particularly at Gulfstream Park West this fall.

Stephen and his wife Cindy have two children, Lia who attends the University of Georgia and Bradley who attends Florida Atlantic University.

Motivation Through Faith

FHBPA Chaplain Tom LaPointe

Horsemen,

What drives a recovering substance abuser from the Bronx to become an inspiration to hundreds of backstretch workers?
What drives a person to work seven days a week and put his own personal needs second to the needs of others?
What drives a person to be available 24 hours a day earning a wage that barely pays the bills?

The answer is faith, hope and a belief in God.

FHBPA Chaplain Tom LaPointe, as a young man found his faith in God while struggling to stay clean from substance abuse issues. Tom’s life was adrift and it was through a chance meeting with a friend, who was a recovering alcoholic, that brought him in contact with his new found faith. With this new outlook, serenity and peace in his heart, he became the person who would dedicate his life reaching out to help others in need. Chaplain Tom, now 64,  with his strong New York accent, openly shares his life story as an inspiration and testament that there is hope through faith.

Years ago, while visiting the backside of the race track for the first time, Tom observed a groom struggling with what appeared  to him to be some sort of substance abuse issue. After this visit and being moved by what he observed, Chaplain Tom felt there was a need to reach out to backside workers. Realizing that substance abuse is not only a street problem, he started to talk to people on the backstretch sharing his story of recovery and redemption through faith.

Eventually, Tom became the Chaplain for Gulfstream, Calder and Palm Meadow training center. His duties now include his ministry, providing health care, alcohol and substance abuse programs, counseling, sports programs, funerals, social events and transportation for backstretch employees. His chaplaincy is funded primarily by the FHBPA, Gulfstream Park and donations from various sources.

His staff of fellow chaplains, Alberto Grimaldi, Guillermo Fernandez and Fernando Roman work as a team to make sure all three facilities receive services from his ministry.

Up to the task and pushed to the brink of exhaustion, Tom and his staff worked tirelessly in providing food, water and assistance to the backside help after Hurricane Irma passed. He and his staff dropped off pallet after pallet of food, water and other supplies by hand, while  driving an econovan with 200,000 miles. Nearly all of these supplies were donated because of Tom and his staff’s efforts to find and procure them.

Chaplain Tom is a “get it done, go to” type of guy.  Seemingly no problem on the backside is outside of what he is willing to tackle. He speaks openly of his gratitude for the positive presence God has made in his life, while sharing those feelings with others. His journey has been a long and arduous road that he willingly and openly shares if asked. When asked what motivates him to put his needs behind others, Chaplain Tom said, “God called and wanted me to speak to the people.”

The racing community in South Florida is blessed and fortunate to have him.

The FHBPA is blessed to have him.

Regards,

Bill White

(Heidi Betrock contributed to this column)

Post-Irma Backside Visits

 

Members,

I just recently concluded my visits to the backstretches of Gulfstream, Palm Meadows Training Center and Gulfstream Park West.

Considering the strength of the hurricane, I was surprised and pleased that the three facilities suffered only minor damage along with short term power outages. The horses that shipped out from Gulfstream have for the most part returned and racing and training has resumed at all three facilities.

Palm Meadows seemed to fare the best in that there were only a few trees toppled with short term power issues. Gulfstream had some damage to the roofs but nothing major. The new barns called the “tents” handled the storm very well and look unscathed. GPW came out of the storm functionally fine but visually it looks beat up. Years of neglect by Churchill with the addition of the storm adds to its tawdry appearance.

The lack of power was the main hardship for horses, horsemen and personnel. Limited lighting/electricity made training difficult until later in the morning. The lack of power created misery for the help that live on the grounds and have no air conditioning, TV or way to cook food. Internet and phone service was disrupted for a few days.

The FHBPA chaplaincy has done a super job of supplying food and water to the backside workers. Numerous pallets of food have been delivered with supplies of ready to eat meals. Chaplain Tom and his staff deserve kudos.

Along with helping with the food needs to the backside workers, the FHBPA has agreed to split the costs with Gulfstream of vanning to and from Palm Meadows which will be paid from the backstretch fund. Those that shipped to places other than Palm Meadows will be responsible to pay their own cost for vanning. Anyone that has a vanning bill for shipping to and from Palm Meadows as a result of the storm is asked to submit invoices to Gulfstream.

The horsemen should feel good about how they both individually and in concert responded to this storm to protect the horses while safeguarding themselves personally. Track management also needs to be given credit for a timely and well-orchestrated response. PJ Campo, Billy Badgett and Cliff Hopmans worked tirelessly guiding and directing the ship. It was an exhausting and mammoth undertaking.

Considering what could have happened with a direct hit by the storm, I think everyone is relieved and has put their best foot forward.

As always, please reach out to the FHBPA if we can assist in any way.

Regards,

Bill

Message from the President

Horsemen,

I am hopeful that the information below clarifies the FHBPA’s positions as to Florida-bred races in comparison to the Florida Sire Stakes.

Some points of interest:

  • Historically and until the last few years, Calder managed the Florida Stallion Stakes. When moved to Gulfstream it was renamed the Florida Sire Stakes. At Calder, the FSS was mainly funded through stallion, foal, yearling and two-year-old nomination fees. For twenty years or more, Kathy Standridge managed the program and collected and tracked nomination fees while working as the Calder President’s Executive Secretary. Purse money was NOT a key component to fund the FSS.
  • Our purse contribution and Gulfstream’s contribution was initiated 2 to 3 years ago. This was done as an incentive to move the series to Gulfstream and to regenerate the program.
  • The program was taken over by the FTBOA when Calder/Churchill showed disinterest and let it decline as part of Churchill’s plan to get out of racing.
  • The FTBOA currently has the funds and wherewithal to fully finance the FSS program on its own. It is estimated that the nomination fees are between $300,000 and $500,000 which the FTBOA now collects and keeps. From Florida Statute and agreement through purse contract, Gulfstream sends the FTBOA at least $6,000,000 yearly from the horsemen’s purse account.
  • The FSS is NOT an Open Florida Bred race or series. They are highly restricted races that ONLY the Florida Bred horses that qualify and are nominated can participate. In round numbers, according to court documents, approximately only 600 of the 2,000 Florida foals are eligible to run. Thus, two-thirds of the registered Florida-breds are ineligible to participate. A small segment of the Florida Breeders and Florida-bred racing participants benefit from this program with most written out. If the Stallion is not nominated with fees paid, the foal is disqualified from participation even though it is a Florida-bred.
  • A great majority of the money that the FTBOA returns to our purses at Gulfstream is tied into and restricted to the FSS and nominees. Very little of the funds they send back to purses is used for non-FSS eligible Florida-breds running in South Florida.
  • Since taking over the FSS, the FTBOA now uses a very small portion of its money for open Florida-bred races.

Recently, a high-ranking FTBOA Director stated openly in front of several FHBPA Directors that the FTBOA has no interest in our FHBPA/Gulfstream Summer Stakes Series that supports Open Florida Bred races.

The FHBPA position is clear. We support Open Florida Bred races. This is evident in the Summer Series that was created this year and earmarked over a million dollars to Open Florida Bred and enhanced stakes races. The FHBPA also used $300,000 from purses to support and fund Open Florida Bred races in the 2017 Sunshine Millions which the FTBOA did not support.

In closing, the FSS series is the FTBOA’s program and theirs to manage and fund.

The FHBPA embraces the use of purse money that is inclusive and allows all Florida-breds to participate. Using purse money that benefits a narrow group while writing out the majority that actually generated the purse money, is not proper stewardship of our purses.

As always, please contact us with comments, suggestions or questions. The FHBPA has an open door policy – no appointment is needed and all horsemen are welcome.

All the best,

Bill White

A Message from Bill White

Dear Members:

The Florida HBPA is proud to introduce you to our new email newsletter and communication service.

As you are aware, the FHPBA provides both business and social benefits to our members. That reality drives our decisions as we work to develop fresh approaches, ideas, and solutions, manage our operations, drive innovation, engage with our owners, trainers, and members, and care for our employees and communities.

Our new service will:

  • Be the most direct way to quickly provide vital information to our members
  • Offer you a sign up platform via the web and social media
  • Easily maintain and update your contact information
  • Notify you of FHBPA sponsored events with one-click RSVP ability
  • Circulate opinion surveys to get your input on key issues
  • Provide a way for members to donate to charitable causes from an email
  • Alert members of all of the great family events put together by Chaplain Tom

We are proud of the positive effects of our collaborative efforts with Gulfstream Park and our fellow horsemen throughout Florida. We are even more excited about the possibilities ahead, as South Florida further separates from the pack into the industry leader for live thoroughbred racing.

These achievements would not be possible without the dedication of you, the horsemen, who deliver an outstanding show to our fans while supporting the communities we serve.

We look forward to your input and participation, as we work to keep you apprised of our progress in helping strengthen the South Florida thoroughbred industry.

Sincerely,

William P. White
President
Florida HBPA

P.S. If are not already on our email list and would like to be included, I encourage you to join us by clicking here.