Horsemen Respond in Dispute at Tampa Bay

Horsemen have taken issue with comments made by Tampa Bay Downs general manager Peter Berube as to the role of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association in purse reductions at the Florida racetrack.

The Tampa Bay HBPA and track management have been at odds for years. The week of Jan. 21, Berube said purses at the track would be reduced by about $800,000 because seven out-of-state tracks have denied Tampa Bay access to their signals.

Berube said National HBPA leadership has encouraged affiliates to deny access by Tampa Bay Downs to their simulcast signals due to the alleged "discrimination" of Tampa Bay Downs HBPA president Bob Jeffries, who wasn't allocated stalls for the current meet.

"Nobody from the National HBPA has tried to influence affiliates," said Dick Watson, president of the Charles Town HBPA. "The affliates have tried to be very careful about this. National has bent over backwards in light of a lawsuit (the Kentucky HBPA) has filed over the anti-trust issue."

The National HBPA held its winter convention in Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 22-24. Watson said the issue was addressed, and no attempt was made to push affilate horsemen's groups to pull signals from Tampa Bay Downs. Charles Town Races is among the tracks that does not send its signal to Tampa because of the ongoing dispute.

"It's a yearly attack on the HBPA by Tampa Bay Downs," Watson said. "I get concerned when Berube wants to make it a personal issue."

Berube said Jeffries was denied stalls because he "failed to offer a proper mix of horses for the 2002 season. But, because he is the HBPA president, he felt he should have been allocated stalls. To do so would offend other horsemen who complied with our stall policy."

The purse reduction is scheduled to take effect Jan. 29.