The Alabama Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Jefferson County Racing Association have struck a deal on a one-year contract that could lead to a return of live horse racing to the state.
Much remains to be done, but the contract clearly represents the most progress made in Alabama since Birmingham Race Course ended Thoroughbred racing in the mid-1990s.
The JCRA, which owns Birmingham, continues to offer live Greyhound racing at the facility and offer full-card simulcasts. But some horsemen's groups have cut off their signals because revenue hasn't gone to Thoroughbred horsemen in Alabama. Pari-mutuel handle on horse racing simulcasts in Alabama dropped about $7 million from 2011 to 2012, according to the horsemen's group.
Alabama HBPA president Dr. David Harrington said the contract, signed March 20, includes Macon County Greyhound Park.
"We will work together in hiring a mutually agreed upon outside consultant to evaluate live racing issues and formats," Harrington said. "We anticipate that this will serve as a foundation for a good working relationship with JCRA in promoting Thoroughbred racing and a longer-term agreement."
The Alabama HBPA has no contract with Mobile Greyhound Park and Greenetrack, which offers full-card simulcasts of horse races. Harrington said he hopes the contract with the JCRA "may help open the door to negotiations with these two entities to ensure that the Thoroughbred horsemen are acknowledged for their product being presented at these facilities within Alabama."
In late February, Harrington said the Alabama HBPA and the JCRA had agreed to move forward in hiring a consultant to examine a live racing plan. He said the barn area at Birmingham is still there, as is the one-mile dirt track.