Tampa Bay Downs and the local HBPA affiliate have been haggling over a purse contract since November. Horsemen want a year-round, multi-year contract that includes a non-retaliation clause to protect HBPA officers. Management denied stalls to six HBPA officers and their trainers before the meet started Dec. 16, which many horsemen perceived as retribution for a nasty contract dispute in 1999. Grady has said he wants one-year contracts that run concurrent with the live meet. He also has said a non-retaliation clause unfairly gives some trainers favorable treatment.
The prolonged dispute is hurting the meet. Field size is suffering, purses are down 40%, and the racetrack is losing millions of dollars a day because it cannot simulcast its live meet without a contract. On Jan. 2, only 45 horses were entered in eight races. They ran for an average overnight purse of $4,860. While the track drew 12 horses for a $75,000 stakes race that included Pay Day riding Megan's Bluff, the card also included two races with three horses each.