Hamilton Downs Horsetrack in Jasper has asked the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering for permission to use its Quarter Horse racing permit to hold pari-mutuel barrel racing.
In two applications filed Nov. 4, Hamilton Downs said it plans to hold 20 racing performances Dec. 10-19 this year and 20 racing performances Jan. 7-16 in 2012. Hamilton Downs is the second Florida group to seek pari-mutuel barrel racing under a Quarter Horse permit.
The Florida DPMW Oct. 19 approved Gretna Racing’s application to use its Quarter Horse permit to conduct pari-mutuel barrel racing at its facility in Gretna, about 25 miles west of Tallahassee. Jasper, a northern Florida town of about 2,000 in Hamilton County, is about 70 miles west of Jacksonville and about 70 miles east of Tallahassee.
Hamilton Downs’ application lists Robert Glenn Richards as 100% owner and general manager. He also owns the adjacent Hamilton Jai-Alai & Poker. The Hamilton Downs’ applications do not include a poker room.
In its Nov. 4 applications, Hamilton Downs does not state that its races would be barrel races. But the applications include a diagram with a barrel racing loop. The applications also include a notice, from November 2005, in which the Hamilton Quarter Horse Barrel Racing Association states that for Hamilton Downs, it “agrees to provide riders and horses for the upcoming race days in 2011 and 2012.”
The timing of that statement indicates Hamilton Downs has been planning for barrel racing for several years.
Barrel racing is a rodeo-like event in a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. It is popular in several parts of Florida and in numerous other states. The National Barrel Horse Association, based in Augusta, Ga., is not aware of any pari-mutuel barrel racing in the United States.
In a written response to The Blood-Horse, the Florida DPMW said Oct. 21 it determined that Gretna Racing’s application to hold pari-mutuel barrel races met Florida’s legal requirements for barrel racing because more than half of the horses in Gretna races would be Quarter Horses.
On Nov. 3, a group of eight Florida and national horse racing associations filed an administrative petition with the Florida DPMW and its parent, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, stating they believe approval of pari-mutuel barrel racing is illegal under Florida law.
The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association are among the eight organizations.
In recent days there has been speculation some horse racing associations might file a lawsuit in a state court to challenge the Florida DPMW’s approval of Gretna’s racing plan. Gretna Racing plans to hold 40 race cards between Dec. 1, 2011 and Jan. 15, 2012. It also will have a poker room that can be open up to 365 days a year.
At a meeting Nov. 1 the Gadsden County Florida Board of Commissioners unanimously approved Gretna Racing’s request to authorize a referendum in which that county’s voters will decide whether to allow slot machines at the facility where Gretna Racing is preparing for the state’s first pari-mutuel barrel racing meet. The question will be placed on the Gadsden County ballot Jan. 31, 2012.