August 16, 2011
In mid July, Sammy Gordon who had been an FHBPA board member for eleven years, the last six and a half as President, tendered his resignation. Sam was a graduate of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and is currently the CEO of West Indies Tropical Sales Company. He was the former CEO of Del Monte Fresh Produce.
Sammy was known as a fierce, hard-nosed negotiator made that apparent in the purse and slots contracts he helped negotiate for Florida horsemen. His slots contracts give horsemen some of the best slot percentages from gross revenues to overnight purses in the country, and with an array of options for them to rise further in the future.
In 2006 the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners honored him with their Bruce Campbell award for distinguished service to the thoroughbred industry. Last year, the FHBPA bestowed Sammy with their Person of the Year Award.
Sammy will leave some big shoes for new President Phil Combest to fill, and with most things associated with Sammy a joke is involved here too. And the shoes he recently “gave” Phil were not that new or that big for that matter.
Phil Combest, who as First Vice President succeeded Sammy as President upon Mr. Gordon’s resignation, was elected to the FHBPA Board of Directors in 2004 and has served the last six and a half years as a Vice President.
Mr. Combest grew up working with horses for his father on various eastern tracks. His father, Reed, has trained horses for fifty years and Phil also had two uncles who were successful jockeys. Phil’s racetrack employment covered everything from being a “hotwalker” to a racing official.
Phil got both a B. A. in English and Political Science from the University of Florida and then got a Master’s degree in Cinema from the University of Southern California. He went on to spend 25 years as a writer/producer of numerous television shows and films. The television show that he was most involved with was as a story editor on Tom Selleck’s Magnum, P. I. He also was a writer on a number of episodes of Simon & Simon, The Watcher and Airwolf. His other credits were for, just to name a few, Flipper, Hill Street Blues, Land of the Lost, Matlock and MacGyver. Phil was the producer on Downtown before hanging up his pen and returning to Florida to start a private stable to be trained by his father.
Phil serves as President of All Purpose Lifeskills, a 501 (c)(3) charity serving at-risk citizens of Broward County. He also is the President and co founder of TRAC (Thoroughbred Retirement & Adoptive Care) which has been in operation since 2009. This 501 (c) (3) program is funded by the FHBPA, Calder, Gulfstream and the jockeys, and has had close to 300 horses enter the program from the two South Florida tracks. Over half of these horses have found a new vocation or at least a new permanent home.
While Sammy did a great job for Florida horsemen, we have no doubt that Phil Combest will continue the job of making the FHBPA as good a horsemen’s group as it can possibly be.