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

President’s Message

Letter to Horsemen June 1, 2016

To all Horsemen,

I would just like to extend a thank you to everyone that attended the Decoupling Meeting that was presented on May 19th at the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion. Your attentiveness and participation throughout the meeting with thoughtful follow up questions was noted and appreciated.

I would also like to thank those that volunteered their time and energy in organizing and making this meeting highly successful. A special thanks goes to co-panelists Tom Cannell, Glen Berman and Herb Sheheane who drove great distances to volunteer their time.

I would like to summarize the meeting, especially for those that were unable to attend.

Decoupling currently is and has been a hotly contested subject and remains on the Legislative menu for this coming year. We expect the issue to quickly boil to the surface again this Spring during the next Legislative session. Decoupling, is generally the removal of a race tracks (permit holder) requirement to use casino money to FUND and to RUN lives races. Remaining coupled ( which is currently in place) means that the casinos stays connected to racing and helps fund purses and guarantee racing days.

The goal of the pro decoupling forces is the stoppage of the requirement to race and to create standalone casinos. The end result is the stoppage of BOTH live racing and the sharing of the profits with horses. All casino money with decoupling goes to the casino owners.

Here is what we currently risk with decoupling:

  • The FHBPA in South Florida has contracts in place that guarantee over 240 race days.
  • We have purses paid that are over 70 million dollars a year and are climbing.
  • We have negotiated contracts that guarantee a minimum average purse of $225,000 per day during the summer season and $400,000 per day during the winter.
  • We have a PERPETUAL slot agreement with Gulfstream Park at 12% and FIVE years remaining at Calder at 10%.
  • The two tracks generate around $13,500,000 from slots per year that are part of the total above stated purses.

Decoupling jeopardizes all of this.

It was debated this past legislative session that PARTIAL decoupling would work. Partial decoupling is to decouple the dogs, Hialeah, Calder, quarter horse  and harness horses and keep Gulfstream and Tampa coupled. Importantly, it  also decouples most of the inactive permits that have been the center of controversy and are being currently debated in front of the Florida Supreme Court.

The strategy to energize the  decoupling movement  is to  attack the low hanging fruit (dogs, quarter horses, standardbreds etc.) and to leave Gulfstream Park  and Tampa Bay Downs alone – FOR NOW. The track owners for the dogs, quarter horses and standardbreds are all on the forefront of pushing for decoupling and have a strong lobbying presence in Tallahassee. The casinos are putting up big money to make decoupling happen.

It is suggested that the answer is to create a “purse pool”  where those that are decoupled would be required to distribute money to Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs. An example of the “purse pool”  concept is if a dog track decouples it would have to give part of its profits to tracks that remain coupled and are running live races. On face value it is difficult to see how you could require one pari-mutuel facility to subsidize another competing facility down the street through its profits.

The “purse pool” concept is a loosely  not yet defined or understood concept that has more questions than answers:

  • How much money would come from decoupled tracks.
  • Who would determine the amount given and received?
  • Who would control the money?
  • How much would the tracks keep and how much would go to purses?
  • Who would be in charge of enforcement and how would it be enforced?
  • Who would be eligible to receive money from the pool  and who would have to pay?
  • How much comes from the State, Seminoles and taxes?
  • Does the purse pool money come from slots or cards?
  • What is the total amount of money to purse pools and how long would it be guaranteed?

The FHBPA has little confidence that this formula would work, last or could be enforced. The only chance of the “purse pool”  concept to succeed would be through strict, clearly understood and tightly written, enforceable legislation backed by statue. It is our opinion if other tracks are allowed to decouple, it is only a matter of time before thoroughbreds will be decoupled.

It is the FHBPA’s position that if all horsemen stay united, we can pass positive legislation or prevent onerous legislation. The FHBPA will listen to and be part of the process to formulate a possible solution to these issues. But rest assured that we will defend what we currently have in place.

All horsemen must become engaged in the decoupling issue and make your opinions heard. We ask for and need your help.

Please contact us at the FHBPA at any time with questions or suggestions. We are eager to hear from you.

William P White (Bill)

President, FHBPA


FHBPA To Take Board Nominations at Annual Meeting December 10

FHBPA Honors Florida Steward and Hall of Fame Jockey Walter Blum

Hall of Fame Jockey Walter Blum Will Receive the FHBPA “Lifetime Achievement” Award

Event to be Highlighted by Presentation to Florida Thoroughbred Legends Manny Tortora, Walter Blum and Richard Root


  • City of Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper will join us to make a special proclamation!  Make sure to be in #GulfstreamPark’s Ten Palms Restaurant no later than 5:45 p.m. to meet her!
  • Local Musical Artist Jake White to Entertain!
Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper

Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper


Here’s your chance to help your fellow horsemen make a difference to ensure a solid future for Florida Thoroughbred racing!

Join us at Gulfstream Park on Thursday, December 10, 2015 as the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association (FHBPA) holds our annual Board of Directors Nominating and General Membership meeting.

Nominations for Board candidates will be taken at the meeting, which begins after the day’s final race (around 5:30 p.m.) in Gulfstream’s “Ten Palms” Restaurant.

“We are focused on gathering a solid slate of statewide candidates who are prepared to do the tough work to ensure we keep Florida’s business climate strong and viable for horsemen,” FHBPA Elections Chairman Marcus Vitali said.

To read the FHBPA election and nomination procedure, click HERE (begins on page 7).

A buffet dinner will be served prior to the event’s official presentations of FHBPA “Man of the Year,” an annual award that will go this year to Florida all-time leading trainer Manny Tortora. The FHBPA will also bestow its “Lifetime Achievement Award” to Hall of Fame Jockey and longtime Florida steward Walter Blum, and powerhouse trainer Richard Root, a past FHBPA President.

“It’s fitting that, in this history-making Triple Crown year, that these three men who have been the backbone of daily Florida Thoroughbred racing take our organization’s top honor,” FHBPA President Bill White explained.

Live musical entertainment will be provided at the event by popular local artist Jake White.

There is no charge for owners and trainers to attend the event with guests.

The FHBPA has accomplished numerous goals in 2015, including working closely with Gulfstream Park to achieve full racing fields and purse increases. The organization’s benevolence activities include after care for retired Thoroughbreds and continued support of its on-track medical clinic. In addition to overhauling its Web site and increasing its social media and community footprint, the FHBPA also launched the ongoing campaign to thwart legislation in 2016 that would devastate the Florida horse racing business by making live racing days optional for pari-mutuel facilities and “decoupling” slot machine revenues from purses.

Florida Horse Racing, Horsemen See No Shortage of Challenges During Late 2015

Grass roots advocacy efforts, back-door attacks on the Interstate Horse Racing Act and haphazard gaming policy are among the many challenges Florida horsemen share in various permutations nationwide.  Florida certainly has had no shortage of any of it this past Quarter.

In response, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association has taken a leadership role on virtually all fronts this year as it seeks to re-establish the importance of our Members’ hard work and contributions to the Sunshine State economy through their many businesses, employees and individual efforts.

Our FHBPA Board has taken on a new vigor, applying hands-on participation and engagement, with results evident in our newly redesigned Website, 30+ percent increases in our aggressive social media platform traffic and outreach, and a communications program featuring horsemen stepping forward to take the reins and redefine our community citizenship statewide.  We’re also making the effort to recognize and educate others on the difficult issues faced by our Members doing business in other states.

Uniform Medication Implementation Not Without Hurdles

Echoing the National HBPA’s opposition to the federal Tonko/Barr bill, the FHBPA also has been front and center as Florida regulations begin to take shape in the wake of hard-fought medication uniformity legislation signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott this past June.  FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling and I testified in two separate hearings at the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering this year on implementation of the new law, voicing our strong concern for the need to have a fair, consistent and reasonable time frame in which class 3, 4, and 5 drug violations are not counted as accumulating factors in the administration of penalties.

As I stated in my testimony, trainers who have demonstrated their willingness to comply with the rules should not have minor medication violations hanging indefinitely over their heads.  As it currently stands, the overwhelming majority of trainers would be compromised, threatened or harassed by the implementation of Florida’s proposed Rule.  We are urging state regulators to give trainers the opportunity to have a clean slate, given compliance over time.

Second Consecutive Florida Sire Stakes a Success

Meanwhile, the FHBPA partnered with our colleagues at the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association and Gulfstream Park for the successful second consecutive running of the Florida Sire Stakes.  The series has increased purses from $2.5 million in 2014, to more than $3 million in 2015–a 20 percent jump attributable to the extraordinary success of its introduction at Gulfstream last year.

Anti-Decoupling Campaign Rockets Out of the Gate

With Florida’s Legislative Session set to begin two months earlier than usual in January 2016, the FHBPA is bracing for the strong possibility that Florida lawmakers could attempt to “decouple” the 10-year old mandate of live racing from slot machines—effectively giving carte blanche to pari-mutuel facilities to immediately stop all live racing if they choose.  For those tracks that continue to race horses, dogs or hold jai alai games, the resulting plummeting purses would kill business, regardless.  Not a rosy picture, but our FHBPA Board and Members have once again have fearlessly stepped up to the plate to conceive and lead a statewide public awareness campaign entitled “”

Our slogan “Because Casino Revenue Earned in Florida Should WORK for Florida” taps into Florida Governor Rick Scott’s jobs and economic development agenda with the contention that Florida must do more for our state’s existing businesses, rather than effect bad public policy and a hostile climate that ultimately eliminates jobs.

Featuring the National HBPA, the campaign was immediately joined by celebrity Florida trainers the McKathan Brothers (who broke American Pharoah) and SNL Financial Founder-turned-Thoroughbred trainer Reid Nagle, whose company recently sold for $2.25 billion.  Together with showcasing other Florida business owners who choose to invest their disposable income on Florida horse racing, the campaign also netted substantial support from the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (the Florida Chapter of the AQHA) and the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, the local chapter of U.S. Trotting.

To convey our message, deployed hard-hitting advertising in Florida’s top political publications, focusing on a three-week Special Legislative Session.  Backed by daily press releases on the issue, information from was also sent to FHBPA members—many of whom do business worldwide–urging them to contact their Florida Senator and State Representative to voice their request for “No Decoupling.”  The Ocala Star Banner—the home newspaper for Marion County, in which most of Florida’s famed breeding farms are located—agreed with, picking up our campaign points, as well as specifically mentioning the FHBPA in a Sunday editorial board opinion.

FHBPA lobbyist Herb Sheheane called from Tallahassee to relay the good news:  Our campaign is working and has brought a wave of legislators who have said they would absolutely oppose decoupling of horse racing.  However, those same legislators may not oppose decoupling dog racing or jai alai, which horsemen realize will ultimately the “slippery slope” the casino-only advocates need to wipe out all types of live horse racing in Florida forever.

The day before Breeders’ Cup, the FHBPA was gratified to learn that Florida Senator Dorothy Hukill of Marion County had clearly seen our message and responded on her own with a glowing and statesmanly tribute to Florida’s horsemen:  a resolution honoring Florida’s McKathan Brothers for their work and contributions to Florida’s economy.

Florida Represents at Breeders’ Cup

Indeed, it is only thanks to continued live racing days and competitive purses that Florida was so well-represented at this year’s Breeders’ Cup, with an estimated 60 or more horses having been bred or trained in Florida at some point in their careers prior to starting at the “Super Bowl” of Thoroughbred racing this year.  FHBPA Board Members David Fawkes, Milton Wolfson, Kathy Davey and Marcus Vitale joined fellow Florida trainers Kathleen O’Connell, Stanley Gold, Marty Wolfson and Jorge Navarro at this year’s Breeders’ Cup, along with a cadre of trainers from New York and other states who annually choose Florida as prime location at which to ramp up their valuable horses to major league status.

Gretna Slots Now Up to Florida Supreme Court in Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing Saga

Amid all the success, the FHBPA remains vigilant as we await the Florida Supreme Court, which will rule on whether Gretna Racing LLC can install slot machines at its North Florida facility in Gadsden County.  Labeling this highly troubling prospect as “defacto decoupling,” the FHBPA took the opportunity to remind legislators that the Gadsden slot referendum was based on “pari-mutuel barrel racing,” which was ruled and upheld on appeal to be afoul of Florida law.  A glimmer of hope emerged in late October, when the State of Florida suddenly filed a legal complaint against “Hamilton Downs,” which had been conducting “flag drop” events along with Gretna.  After years of licensing this unsanctioned activity, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering now states that it is “not real horse racing” and is contrary to the 2013 “pari-mutuel barrel racing” ruling from which Florida’s horsemen emerged victorious.

Executive Director Search to Wrap Up

Amid the legislative and regulatory furor, the FHBPA plans to wrap up its national search for a new Executive Director at the end of November.  Chaired by Pinnacle Racing Stables’ Adam Lazarus, the Search Committee is seeking to fill the position with someone who will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for FHBPA programs, its staff and our mission–a dynamic leader who will develop and advance programs to promote Florida horse racing.”

The new FHBPA Executive Director will represent the organization throughout Florida and nationwide in all matters affecting horsemen and the horse racing industry.   Based at the FHBPA’s Hallandale Beach, Florida office inside of Gulfstream Park, he or she will work with race track management, state officials and lawmakers, as well as with various racing and breeding associations.

SNL Financial Founder Reid Nagle Voices Opposition to Florida Horse Racing Decoupling

SNL Financial Founder Reid Nagle Voices Opposition to Florida Horse Racing Decoupling

SNL Financial Founder Reid Nagle Is Standing Up Against Decoupling. Will You Join Him?

Will You Join Him?

By Bill White, FHBPA President

Before he started training Thoroughbred race horses in Florida five years ago, Nagle had spent more than 30 years in the world of high finance. In 1987 he founded SNL Financial, the premier multi-industry business intelligence service that caters to Wall Street and public companies worldwide. From its beginning with four employees and a small office in Hoboken, New Jersey, today SNL has 3,300 employees, offices in 4 continents and was just sold last month to McGraw-Hill Financial for $2.25 billion.

Currently, Nagle has 20 horses in training, split between Oak Ridge Equine Training Center in Morriston and Gulfstream Park. He operates a high-end barn rental operation at Oak Ridge, and owns the largest manure removal and shavings delivery company serving the Ocala area—All-In Shavings and Removal. These rapidly growing horse-related enterprises collectively have 35 full-time employees in Florida.

Humble and soft-spoken, Nagle loves Florida and loves to train his Thoroughbreds here. But Nagle’s love for the Sport of Kings was why he’s stepping up and voicing his objection to any legislative consideration of “decoupling”–a misguided plan he agrees will trash horse racing in Florida, and forcing him to export horses and jobs to more horse-racing friendly states.

“Decoupling casinos from horse racing will cripple our businesses,” he explained from his Central Florida operation. “Opposing it is a no-brainer.”

“I’d very likely have to race my horses elsewhere,” he said, “because, at that point, Florida just won’t be able to compete effectively with the many other states that have kept the linkage between casino gambling and horse racing. Our other horse-related businesses would shrink dramatically as well.”

Florida horse racing industry officials have sounded the alarm at the recent surge of legislative interest in “decoupling,” which would effectively expand gambling by immediately creating stand-alone casinos and eliminating Florida’s competitive edge in attracting horse racing business from other states.

“Florida seems committed to doing anything and everything imaginable to compete with other states for business, and now some misguided legislators are considering changes that would cripple the State’s robust horse racing industry that attracts tourists and provides employment to tens of thousands of workers,” Nagle said.

We Need Your Help to Save Florida Horse Racing

Go to NOW to Find Handy Info to Contact Your Florida Senator and State Representative.

Tell Them You Oppose Decoupling!