The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority has a myriad of mandates from Gov. Ernie Fletcher and from participants in the racing industry, but according to chairman Bill Street, its #1 issue is revenue.
"We need to see a better flow of economic dollars coming to the industry," said Street at an appearance Tuesday evening in Lexington at the monthly gathering of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club. Street appeared with LaJuana Wilcher, who through her position as secretary of the state's Department of Public Protection, serves as an ex-officio member of the KHRA.
Street and Wilcher have been in their respective roles for about four months. They spoke in broad terms to the audience of farm managers and owners, with Street giving an overview of the KHRA's membership and Fletcher's prescriptions to improve the industry, while Wilcher talked about her background. Wilcher also mentioned the possibility that the Thoroughbred industry, as Kentucky's most identifiable image, could be a part of the state's new marketing plan which will employ one motto and one message for all publicity. That program is set to be introduced in July.
Both speakers assured their audience that the state's administration recognizes the importance of the Thoroughbred industry, although neither would give specific examples of measures that are in the works to provide anything like tax incentives, which have been discussed at previous meetings. Currently, taxes are paid by horse breeders and owners on farm supplies including feed and fencing, as well as stallion's stud fees. Some states do not tax horse farms or stud fees.
Although Street and Wilcher agreed to answer 'soft questions,' from the audience, their listeners were fairly direct. One wanted to know the KHRA's top priority; another mentioned concerns that while the last two Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winners were Kentucky-sired, neither Funny Cide nor Smarty Jones were foaled in the state.
"We want to see these horses here. Bred here, foaled here, winning races here," Wilcher said. "I can tell you it's very much on the mind of the Governor," said Street.