Tampa Bay Receives Favorable Ruling on Stall Allocation

A Circuit Court judge in Florida has ruled that Tampa Bay Downs has the right to determine which horsemen are allocated stalls, effectively upholding the track's denial of space to some TB Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association board members.

Contending the stall denial was retribution over a contract dispute between horsemen and track management, Tampa Bay HBPA sought a temporary injunction forcing the track to reallocate stalls. The suit claimed Tampa Bay's action to deny stalls to some HBPA board members or their relatives violated the spirit of a non- retaliation clause in the previous contract, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

"We are gratified that the effect of the court's ruling upheld existing Florida law and Tampa Bay Downs' right to determine who can stable horses at the track," Tampa Bay Downs general manager John Grady said. Grady has insisted that denial of stalls is not retribution. He said the track had 2,300 stall applications and only 1,328 stalls.
TBHBPA board member Robert Van Worp, whose son, Judson, was denied stalls, said Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Manuel Menendez denied the TBHBPA request for injunctive relief as being null because the previous contract expired in May.

The denial of stalls is one particularly sticky issue in another contentious contract negotiation. If a contract isn't signed by Saturday, Tampa Bay Downs cannot simulcast its races and track executives have said purses will be cut by $35,000, according to Van Worp.

Last year, Tampa Bay Downs opened without a contract. The day was plagued with short fields, poor attendance, and a total on-track handle of $165,920.

Horsemen met Monday afternoon with Grady and assistant general manager Peter Berube, but no progress was made toward drafting a new contract. Another negotiating session has been scheduled for Thursday.

"With the court's decision, we believe the remaining issues under negotiation can be effectively addressed before opening day," Grady said.

(More, St. Petersburg Times)