By Carlos Medina
The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association was approved for a Quarter Horse racing permit April 9 by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.
The permit gives the FTBOA the authority to hold a Quarter Horse meet at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. track.
Last week, Gov. Charlie Crist signed the Seminole Indian Gaming Compact into law, which allows five of the Seminole-owned casinos in the state to offer Las Vegas-styled slot machines and banked card games like blackjack. The law also includes several provisions for the state’s Thoroughbred industry. One of those provisions is the ability to convert a Quarter Horse permit into a not-for-profit Thoroughbred racing permit.
The FTBOA board of directors will soon decide whether to convert the permit, said Richard Hancock, executive vice president of the association.
“When we applied for this permit, we applied for it as a Quarter Horse permit to run a Quarter Horse meet," Hancock said. "At that time (the compact) hadn’t passed; now the board will have to make a decision. We’ve always wanted a Thoroughbred permit. Now, we have to study it and see which would be more lucrative.”
In the FTBOA application for the permit, it states that the organization would lease the existing OBS facility to run the meet. The FTBOA states that OBS has the necessary improvements to conduct a Quarter Horse meet, including a one-mile synthetic surface track. The track’s yearly one day of racing is cited as a supporting fact that the facility can conduct racing.
The FTBOA also states in the application that it plans to finance the first year of operations using its own internal funds and bank loans if possible.
Florida law states a meet must be held within a year of the permit being issued.
Previously, the state denied a similar application from OBS. In denying the application, the state said it was not convinced the permit would be used within one year of issuance. It noted that OBS has had a Quarter Horse permit since 1985 and has not held a Quarter Horse meet. The state also balked at the sale company's caveat that the permit would be used within a year only upon adoption of the then pending Seminole compact.
Tom Chiota, OBS president, could not be reached for comment.
Hancock said it may be June before a decision is made on whether to try to convert the permit.
“It’s still too soon to say when there would be any racing, but this brings Thoroughbred racing one step closer to Marion County,” he said.