Horsemen's Group Takes First Step to Oust TOC

The California Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association wants to unify owners, trainers.

A newly formed horsemen's group announced April 28 that it is formally seeking to replace the Thoroughbred Owners of California as the official representative.

During a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board at Hollywood Park, horse owner David Wilson, the group's president, said the main goal of the California Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association "is to revitalize Thoroughbred racing in California" through the unification of horsemen and trainers.

Paperwork seeking the decertification of the TOC was filed with the CHRB April 15, according to Robert Miller, counsel for the agency. The move has been expected, though CTHA spokesmen Roger Licht said last month he was hoping to resolve differences with the TOC.

But Wilson said the TOC, which is the legally recognized representative of horsemen in the state, has steadfastly refused to call an election that would bring owners and trainers together in one organization.

"There are 7,000 to 8,000 owners and about 500 trainers, 300 that own horses," Wilson said. "What do they have to fear?"

Currently, representatives of the owner/trainer group hold three of 15 slots on the TOC board. The CTHA would like to gain equal representation for trainers.

Jack Owens, chairman of the TOC, said trainers who are owners have not been prevented from participating in annual TOC elections. He said that was preferrable to throwing horsemen representation into confusion.

"Twenty-five percent of the TOC board seats come up for election every year," Owens said. "If they want to vote us out, they can vote us out."

Wilson introduced several officers of the CTHA, including Licht, trainer John Sadler, and owners Cory Wellman and Aase Headly, at the CHRB meeting.

Sadler is also president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers.

According to Miller, the CHRB will verify the CTHA's petition, which includes articles of incorporation, for accuracy and determine the number of current owner licensees.

The CTHA would have six months from then to acquire signatures from 10% of the TOC's recognized membership of about 8,000, he said. Once those signatures are verified, the CHRB would be responsible for calling an election that would determine the eventual representative.