The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association will hold its annual nominating meeting/Awards Dinner Dec. 8 at the Sport of Kings Theater at Gulfstream Park.
In addition to nominating candidates for FHBPA's board of directors, horsemen and their guests will gather to recognize achievements of Florida's horsemen and "backstretch" leaders. Awards to be handed out include Person of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, and special recognition of Outriders of Gulfstream Park and Gulfstream Park West.
"This year's honorees have made countless contributions to our membership and to our industry for many, many years," said Florida HBPA president and William "Bill" White. "We celebrate their selfless dedication to the sport, which is the backbone of this industry. Day-in and day-out, rain or shine, their tireless commitment plays a vital role in bringing world-class Thoroughbred racing to the state of Florida."
The event kicks off with cocktails from 5:30-6:30 p.m. followed by the nominating meeting, a buffet dinner, and the awards ceremony hosted by White.
The awards and honorees will include:
• Special Recognition Award: to Gulfstream Park outriders. Responsible for maintaining a safe environment at the track during morning workouts and live racing, outriders work long hours and are responsible for opening and closing the track each day. They are also in charge of clearing equine traffic and are always ready to catch loose horses on the track as quickly as possible.
Commonly starting out as exercise riders, or pony-to-post riders, it takes a special individual with a true love for the horses to advance to the outrider team.
• Lifetime Achievement Award: Will go to H. W. "Salty" Roberts. Roberts is the founder of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America. For more than 43 years he has dedicated his life to bringing the ministry and a positive influence not only to Florida racing but race tracks worldwide.
• Person of the Year: Cliff Hopmans, director horseman liaison and stall manager at Gulfstream Park since 2007. With more than 48 years in the trenches, from a hot walker at age 12 to a trainer for prestigious owners Conn Smythe, Morgan Firestone, and Frank Stronach, Cliff embodies the horseman lifestyle. His openness, professionalism, and decorum make him an effective mediator between the business and the horsemen.
Working hand in hand with the horsemen and Gulfstream Park, Cliff's responsibilities include making sure there are no empty stalls, this, in turn, makes for bigger fields, better wagering opportunities, and increased handle.
"As a horseman, I am continually inspired by the years of hard work and behind-the-scenes dedication these individuals bring to horse racing year after year," White said. "It is the FHBPA's honor to recognize them and hopefully bring their stories to the attention of horse racing fans everywhere."