The Horse Owners’ Protective Association, an industry advocacy group that was formed in part by activist owner Jess Jackson, has announced a reorganization of its board and an expanded focus of its mission.
Robert Clay of Three Chimneys Farm will join fellow co-founder William Casner of WinStar Farm in stepping down from the board, and they will be replaced by racing giant Frank Stronach, Thoroughbred owners James McIngvale and Billy Koch, and show horse owner Debora Hanson.
Under its new leadership team, which includes Jackson, HOPA aims to broaden its message of reform on both the state and national level. According to a news release of Dec. 20, initiative includes national standardization of medical regulation, unification of racetracks with state Thoroughbred organizations to form a unified Thoroughbred racing league, and implementation of marketing and lobbying efforts.
“A unified and cooperative national model for both the rules and production of the Thoroughbred racing product, as well as sale and horse transactions, is needed,” said the release written by HOPA president Kevin McGee, who is Jackson’s corporate attorney.
Referencing the efforts of the Sales Integrity Task Force, which recently delivered guidelines for self-regulation to the Kentucky legislature, HOPA said “it has become apparent that larger, national-level solutions are needed to address some of the larger problems affecting the horse industry.”
Jackson, a task force member who wants government to regulate auction industry problems in areas such as medical transparency, owner transparency, and agent licensing, was openly critical of the self-regulation guidelines. A stern open letter authored by Jackson in response to the guidelines was cited as the reason Casner resigned from HOPA in October.
“HOPA applauds the efforts of the 2007 task force and the initiative of the sale companies in implementing a screening program for steroids at sales,” the McGee letter said. “HOPA will continue to work toward accomplishing even more in the sales integrity arena, and will be working toward implementing protections that reach into private transactions and to assist the non-Thoroughbred sales industry.
“HOPA would like to see a policy of zero-tolerance, and full transparency, regarding drugging or medicating horses, and disclosure of any treatment, condition, or procedure that affects the performance or appearance of a horse.”
Stronach, the multiple Eclipse Award-winning owner and breeder, is also the founding chairman of Magna Entertainment Corp., which, among other enterprises, owns and/or operates 11 racetracks in the United States and Austria. Jackson, who owns multiple farms in Kentucky and Florida, has purchased from Stronach former Adena Springs farm properties near Versailles, Ky., and Ocala, Fla., and converted them into editions of his Stonestreet Farm.
McIngvale, who is the founder of Gallery Furniture chain in Texas, like Jackson has been a plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging fraud by agents and other horsemen. Both the Jackson and McIngvale lawsuits were settled out of court.
Koch, who founded the Little Red Feather partnership venture best known for campaigning 2004 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Singletary, is a board member of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.
Hanson, a native of Virginia, has gained notoriety for her part in bringing felony convictions and prison sentences against two individuals who bilked her and stole her daughter’s show pony.
HOPA has authored Kentucky legislation related to horse-sale integrity that has been passed into law in Kentucky, including one on dual agency that went into effect in 2006. The statute provides treble damages and attorneys’ fees if a party is defrauded by their agent on a transaction. It also mandates that written bills of sale be issued and signed by both the buyer and seller in Kentucky horse transactions, and requires all commission agreements be in writing.