"It appears Tampa Bay Downs is manipulating this whole thing," said Kent Stirling, executive director for the Florida HBPA, who is helping negotiate the new contract. "They want a rival horsemen's group formed so they can negotiate with them."John Grady, Tampa Bay Downs general manager, said he wouldn't comment on Van Worp's and Stirling's allegations. He has insisted that no one is being picked on, and that stall allocations are strictly "business decisions." The track has 2,300 stall applications and only 1,328 stalls.Contract negotiations have stalled for nearly two weeks. The Tampa Bay Downs HBPA sent a draft contract to track management Nov. 10, but received no response and has been unable to set up a meeting to discuss it, according to Van Worp.
"I think this will be tougher than last year," Van Worp said. "We'd rather sit down and work this out, but we have not qualms about going to court because we feel we'll prevail."The horsemen want the new contract to specify how new purse money will be distributed,and would like HBPA officers to hae more of a voice in how existing purse money is spent.
Grady said he didn't want to negotiate the contract through the press, but did say track management would prefer to simply renew the current contract.