Nelson overcame an impasse with local horsemen when, on Jan. 4, he signed a one-year contract with the Inland Northwest Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association/Organization for Preservation of Horse Racing in the Northwest. Nelson had been in negotiations with the group since June of 2002. At one point a second group, the Inland Empire Horsemen's Association signed a contract with Nelson, but they were not recognized as the area's HBPA representation at the time. Jan Bosequette, vice president of INHBPA/OPHRN said the group hopes to have an officer election before the live season begins. Part of the Jan. 4 agreement includes a clause that any future gambling at the track, and a possible portion of those revenues, must be negotiated with horsemen before it is allowed.
Patrick LePley, chairman of Washington's Horse Racing Commission, resigned the week of Jan. 15. The commission has been under attack since late December when Gov. Gary Locke included its reorganization in his proposed budget. Three state Senators have since proposed a bill eliminating the commission and putting oversight of the sport both under the Department of Agriculture and the Gambling Commission. LePley reportedly said he wanted to spend more time on his law practice and with his family. However, the Associated Press reported that state Sen. Jim Honeyford had plans to meet with Locke to discuss LePlay's role with the commission, specifically, the pursuit of electronic gaming devices at the state's racetracks. LePlay's spot on the commission will not be filled. A new chairman is scheduled to be elected by the four remaining commission members at their Feb. 13 meeting. On the Eastern end of the state, Eric Nelson has hired Daniel "Boone" McCanna to manage Playfair Race Course when the track opens for its live season in August. Simulcasting is scheduled to begin Feb. 5. The plant has been closed since the summer of 2001.