Tampa Bay Downs Dispute Settled, Contract Signed

Tampa Bay Downs Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the track's management reached an agreement on a purses contract on Saturday afternoon, ending the second bitter contract dispute between the two parties in the last two years. The agreement came one day after members of the Tampa Bay Downs HBPA voted 160-2 to accept a purses contract as proposed by racetrack management, according to John Grady, general manager of Tampa Bay Downs.

The three-year contract expires at the end of the 2002-03 meet and has a 15-day window each year during which either party may opt out of the contract.

Horsemen had been holding out for a year-round, multi-year contract that would include a non-retaliation clause to protect HBPA officers involved in the contentious contract negotiations. In November, track management denied stalls to six Tampa Bay Downs HBPA officers and/or their trainers.

Last year's meet began on a rainy afternoon, with reduced purses and short fields caused by an entry box boycott by horsemen. This year, the track didn't slash purses until after the first three racing days of the meet. Without a contract with the local horsemen, the track could not export its simulcast signal, causing a loss of revenue and the purse reductions.

On Tuesday, purses will be restored to their original levels as stated in the meet's first condition book.

"Although the negotiations took a longer time than either side had wanted, I think both sides are pleased with the results," Grady said in a written statement.

Local horsemen could not be reached for comment.