Florida Association Votes to Leave National HBPA

The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, whose board of directors has considered leaving the National HBPA since earlier this year, made it official Nov. 11.

The Florida HBPA voted to leave the National HBPA, and sent a notice of its intentions to other HBPA affiliates, president Linda Mills confirmed Nov. 13. The Florida association had tabled the decision on three other occasions this year.

The Florida HBPA has no intention of joining another umbrella horsemen's group, such as the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, Mills said.

The Florida HBPA represents horsemen at Calder Race Course and Gulfstream only. Horsemen at Tampa Bay Downs, also in Florida, are represented by the Tampa Bay HBPA.

"Florida will be an independent association at this time," Mills said. "We've developed very good relationships with all horsemen's organizations, and look forward to continuing these relationships and working toward strengthening them in the future."

National HBPA president John Roark said Nov. 13 he was in the process of determining exactly what action was taken by the Florida HBPA board of directors. Roark indicated communications between himself and the Florida HBPA, in particular Mills, have been strained.

"I'm sorry to say our relationship has gotten to that," Roark said. "I'm in the process of contacting board members to find out what happened and why. Now is not the time for horsemen's groups to be dividing. There is a need for dialogue. (THA chief executive officer) Alan Foreman and I are communicating, and the Thoroughbred Owners of California and I are communicating on common efforts. Now is the time for us to band together and get past our differences."

The potential split first came to light during the National HBPA winter convention in early February in New Orleans. There were several issues at play, including Florida HBPA bylaws.

Mills at the time told The Blood-Horse the organization's bylaws allow it to pay no more than $25,000 a year in dues to the National HBPA. Last year, the National HBPA adopted a new structure that hiked dues for some affiliates. The Florida HBPA is among those that pay the most--$25,000--to the National HBPA, but the amount was scheduled to increase slightly.

During the convention, it was announced Mills had resigned as chairman of the National HBPA Insurance Committee, to which she had devoted a lot of time. During the National HBPA summer convention in Ohio in 2003, Roark defeated Mills in a two-person election for president. Mills has said the election wasn't a factor in the split.

The Florida HBPA and the National HBPA are currently involved in the national effort to devise a medical insurance plan for jockeys. In Florida, like many racing states, jockeys are covered for expenses of up to $100,000. The high-profile Gulfstream meet begins Jan. 3, 2005.