No Contract Agreement at Tampa Bay; Race Fields Decline

New Year's celebrations were muted at Tampa Bay Downs where racetrack management and horsemen remain locked in a contract dispute. Track general manager John Grady said he met with the Tampa Bay Downs Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association board Saturday, but the meeting ended without resolution.

"We've only got one or two more points to go," Grady said Jan. 2. "I assume we'll meet with the board in the next couple days."

Horsemen's representatives could not be reached for comment.
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.