Horsemen's Groups Form Coalition

Horsemen's groups have banded together to deal with pari-mutuel economics.

Eight horsemen’s groups from around the United States have joined together to form a coalition designed to improve racing economics, specifically in the area of generating more purse revenue from interstate simulcasts.

Horsemen’s groups met for about four hours in Tucson, Ariz., Dec. 5 for discussion and to ultimately launch the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, a limited liability company. Formation of the coalition is a major step in that it welcomes all horsemen’s group regardless of affiliation.

The initial members are mostly affiliates of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association: the Florida HBPA, Kentucky HBPA, Louisiana HBPA, Ohio HBPA, Pennsylvania HBPA, Texas Horsemen’s Partnership, and Virginia HBPA. The Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association also joined.

President of the group is Ohio HBPA board member Bob Reeves. Pennsylvania HBPA and National HBPA president Joe Santanna is treasurer, and Virginia HBPA executive director Frank Petramalo is secretary and general counsel. Wilson Shirley, a long-time consultant for horsemen’s groups, has been retained by the THG.

When contacted Dec. 6, Reeves, co-chair of the National HBPA Wagering and Alternative Gaming Committee, said the coalition is similar to racetrack companies Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Group forming TrackNet Media Group, which buys and sells signals.

“The business is changing, the marketplace is changing, and horsemen needed to form the equivalent,” Reeves said. “It’s a way for the industry’s horsemen’s groups to share resources. I can say frankly the Ohio HBPA by itself couldn’t afford to hire Wilson Shirley.”

Reeves and many other horsemen’s representatives have said the simulcast revenue model is outdated and must be changed. The THG, Reeves said, can assist the industry in formulating a new model.

Shirley, who has crunched numbers related to handle and purses for several clients including the Thoroughbred Owners of California, noted that a few years ago, several horsemen’s groups that deal with CDI-owned racetracks met regularly to discuss issues related to simulcast consolidation. The meetings were helpful, he said, and other horsemen’s groups signed on.

“Recognizing the usefulness of the effort, they’ve decided to formalize it as the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group,” Shirley said. “Some of the study group members have signed up already, and we expect others to sign up shortly. We hope that eventually all horsemen’s organizations will see the merit of our activity and become members.”

Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the THA, whose affiliates are mostly based in the Mid-Atlantic region, said Dec. 6 the THA board of directors discussed formation of the THG at its meeting in Tucson.

“We’ve been supportive of the effort,” Foreman said. “Each (affiliate) board is dealing with the issue, and I expect that other THA groups will join. It’s going to give horsemen a strong voice in dealing with issues of simulcasting and the economics of the industry as it relates to horsemen. The horsemen have been somewhat on the sidelines, but we produce the product.”

Foreman noted racetracks have formed cooperatives for the purpose of buying and selling simulcast signals.

Reeves said the THG has retained a law firm to advise the horsemen’s groups on potential anti-trust issues. “We’re trying to act accordingly,” he said.

There has been talk over the years about horsemen’s groups joining forces regardless of their umbrella affiliation, but efforts stalled.