The California Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association announced Aug. 20 that it has submitted more than 1,100 signatures to the state horse racing board seeking an election to decertify the current horsemen's representative.
The new horsemen's group, formed in March, wants to replace the Thoroughbred Owners of California as the legally recognized representative through an election of the TOC membership. Current California Horse Racing Board records list 7,705 Thoroughbred owners. Valid signatures of at least 10% of the membership must be obtained to force an election.
If the CHRB determines that the criteria has been met, the agency is charged with calling the election and overseeing the results.
The CTHA charges that the interests of horsemen have not been properly represented by the TOC, which has been the official bargaining entity since it was incorporated in 1993.
Its main goal is the unification of owners and trainers into a single unit. In its negotiations, it has sought an increase in "owner-trainer" representation on the TOC board. Trainers hold three slots on the TOC's 15-member panel.
“We have been working to reunify and revitalize Thoroughbred racing in California," said David Wilson, CTHA president, in a press release announcing the decision to push ahead with decertification. "Earlier this month, we reached out to the TOC to try to resolve our differences. Unfortunately, the TOC has refused even to respond to our offer.
"Nevertheless, we remain determined to secure the right of every CHRB licensed Thoroughbred owner to determine how and by whom they wish to be represented. Obviously, a large number of California horse owners agree.”
Lou Raffetto, president of the TOC, issued a response.
“This is an attempt led by a small group of individuals that does not have the best interests of the owners in mind," he said in a statement. "Simply put, the leadership of the CTHA does not want a strong owners’ organization, but seeks to merge it into one that can be controlled by trainers. The trainers already have a capable representative organization in the California Thoroughbred Trainers.
“The CTHA asserts they are seeking unity, but in fact they are looking for control and to reduce owners’ voices," Raffetto added. "This power play is divisive and could not come at a worse time. My sense is that California racing has turned the corner and is headed down the right road. The leadership of the CTHA bus is prepared to drive the industry over the cliff.”
The CTHA filed paperwork with the CHRB April 15 announcing its intentions and launching the signature-gathering process.
“We look forward to bringing California Thoroughbred horsemen together and working with all racing industry interests," Wilson said in his statement.