West Virginia Tracks to Send Signals to Tampa

In light of reportedly improved relations between Tampa Bay Downs horsemen and management, Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association affiliates at two West Virginia racetracks have decided to send their signals to the Oldsmar, Fla., racetrack.

Dick Watson, president of the Charles Town HBPA, said March 22 it appears Tampa Bay Downs management has expressed an interest in working with the Tampa Bay HBPA board of directors, including president Bob Jeffries. Management and some horsemen have been odds for years over contractual and stall-allotment issues.

In a joint release, the Charles Town HBPA and Mountaineer HBPA said Jeffries and Tampa Bay Downs general manager Peter Berube "have arrived at what appears to be a satisfactory agreement. Based on the written evidence of this arrangement, the Mountaineer HBPA and the Charles Town HBPA will start the process to return to a full business relationship."

Watson said all parties in West Virginia and Florida have discussed the situation over the past three days. On March 16, the Kentucky and Ohio HBPAs reversed their decisions and sent signals to Tampa Bay Downs. In the case of Kentucky, the horsemen's association did so in exchange for dropping a declaratory judgment regarding the Interstate Horseracing Act.

The decision by the Kentucky HBPA generate serious concern among other horsemen's groups, including the Florida HBPA. Its president, Linda Mills, said it was time for the National HBPA to reconsider its motto of "horsemen helping horsemen." In a subsequent statement, National HBPA president John Roark said horsemen must feel comfortable serving in an official capacity without fear of being punished by racetrack management.

Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Associations, wondered why the Kentucky HBPA filed its lawsuit in the first place. "I'm very confident from what we do that (racetrack) simulcast contracts don't supercede the Interstate Horseracing Act."