The provision in Florida’s tax package that earmarks funding for our racing and breeding programs would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Stephen Screnci and the team from 1/ST RACING. Our relationship with Gulfstream Park management is more productive now than at any time in recent memory. We will now work with the Gulfstream Racing Office to determine how best to spend the $7.5 million in funding from the bill that must be used exclusively for purse money at Gulfstream Park. We will also develop a plan for the additional $2.5 million we will have for Florida-bred incentives. We want to be sure that this money helps to sustain the owners and trainers who race year-round at Gulfstream Park. We will provide our members with details of the purse and incentive plan as soon as they are finalized.
There are always issues to be addressed, and we know the next few months will have their difficulties as we negotiate the changes under the new Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program. We will endeavor to provide our trainers with the resources necessary to ensure they are in compliance with the new rules, and to advocate on their behalf when there are problems. We are also researching the immigration laws recently enacted in Florida and their impact on racing.
As always, we welcome all of our owners and trainers to stop by the FTHA trailer, which is located at the back of the parking lot across from the Racing Office. Our Executive Director Andy Belfiore and her team, Business Manager Debbie Filippi, Special Events Coordinator Herb Oster and Administrative Assistant Kimberly Martinez, are here to listen to your suggestions, answer your questions, and assist in any way possible.
FTHA President Joe Orseno
As I start my third term on the Board of our horsemen’s organization, it is an honor to be named President. There are big shoes to fill – Stephen Screnci was a dynamic leader and an asset in so many ways. He is a tough act to follow, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I believe we have a great group of owners and trainers on our Board, energetic and dedicated to helping the industry and the horsemen and women who make up our membership.
This is going to be an eventful year for Thoroughbred racing, in South Florida and for the entire country. The safety rules of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act go into effect on July 1, and we will be joining forces with our fellow Horsemen’s Associations to help our owners and trainers prepare for the changes involved. We are also at the table on discussions as to the cost of the program, and how it will be paid.
Gulfstream Park will give the turf course a greatly needed renovation, which will mean short-term sacrifice as the turf is closed for what is expected to be three months over the summer, but could be a win in the long term when we have a good, safe surface to run on year-round, and are less reliant on Tapeta. That said, the Tapeta has done its job for us, helping to maintain field size when races do come off the grass and mitigating the decrease in handle that we’ve seen this winter due to fewer starters overall. We are hopeful that bettors will become more comfortable with Tapeta racing as they have more data to use when handicapping.
We do face serious issues. The cost of doing business is always increasing, but purses have not kept pace. We will work with the Stronach Group, our fellow stakeholders in Florida and with our lobbyists in Tallahassee to come up with new sources of revenue for purses. We are looking at what’s being done in other states, to see what will work here. It’s a never-ending task. We also continue to look at ways we might decrease the cost of workers’ compensation insurance for trainers. We have hit a lot of roadblocks, but we will persist in the effort.
Communication is key. Many of you know me, I’m on the Gulfstream backstretch pretty much every morning, and I welcome the opportunity to talk with you and hear your concerns. Our office is open six days a week, and our Executive Director Andy Belfiore, Special Projects Coordinator Herb Oster, Business Manager Debbie Filippi and Administrative Assistant Kimberly Martinez are at your service.
We all love this sport and we want to see it succeed. Our mission for the coming year is to remain positive and upbeat as we work together to make Gulfstream Park racing the best it can be.