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Delta Jackpot Will Not Be Renewed in 2018

By Bill Finley

The $1 million GIII Delta Jackpot S., which had been the signature race of the Delta Downs meet, is no more.

According to Delta Downs management, the local horsemen’s group, the Louisiana HBPA, was opposed to putting so much money into one race and one card at the expense of overnight purses, and when the two parties could not reach an agreement, it was decided to do away with the race.

“While it was our original intent to move forward with the Delta Downs Jackpot this year, we changed course after lengthy discussions with the state’s horsemen,” said Delta’s Vice President and General Manager Steve Kuypers. “They made it clear to us that they were vehemently opposed to proceeding with the Jackpot, as they felt the prize money could be put to better use in strengthening purses for the rest of our racing schedule. We have honored their request, and will not proceed with the Delta Downs Jackpot in 2018.”

Jackpot Day had also included the $400,000 GIII Delta Princess S. for 2-year-old fillies, the $250,000 Delta Mile and the $200,000 Treasure Chest S. Those races also will not be renewed.

The Jackpot card was canceled in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey hit the eastern part of Texas, which is where Delta draws the vast majority of its casino customers. Management and horsemen feared that there would be such a downturn in business due to the hurricane that the money would not be available for the Jackpot races. Those fears never materialized, as business at Delta’s casino remained steady. The money that would have gone to the Jackpot card was instead put into overnight races and by the end of Delta’s meet earlier this year, horses were racing for huge purses. On closing night in March, there was a $50,000 maiden special weight race and a $64,000 allowance race.

Trainer Ron Faucheux, a member of the HBPA Board, said horsemen at Delta and its sister track, Evangeline Downs, came to believe that the money would be better spent on races that normally involve local horsemen.

“Lousiana racing has taken a fall,” he said. “You’ve see it in the breeding industry and everywhere else over the last five, six years. The main thing is to help the locals as much as we possibly can.”

Delta and Evangeline are owned by Boyd Gaming and the vast majority of money for purses at both tracks comes from slots revenue. With Evangeline’s casino bringing in less money than Delta’s, the purses at Evangeline are considerably lower than they are at the cross-state track. However, the horses and trainers competing at the two tracks are primarily the same. Faucheux said the HBPA is seeking to have the Jackpot money put not into races at Delta but at Evangeline.

“We are hoping this move will allow a transfer of money from Delta to Evangeline,” he said. “The purses over the summer at Evangeline have gotten depleted over the last several years. We’re trying to create a situation where they can transfer money from one racetrack to the other. With the extra money now available, we believe the purses at Delta will be what they were at the beginning of last year’s meet [before several purse increases were enacted] and we can also boost purses substantially at Evangeline.”

The Delta Jackpot was one of several examples in racing of a small-time track creating a rich marquee race to draw attention to itself. The race for 2-year-old males was won by both horses who went on to national prominence and horses who were never heard from again. The most notable winners of the Jackpot were 2016 GI Preakness winner Exaggerator (Curlin), two-time GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents (Into Mischief) and Eclipse Award winning sprinter Big Drama (Montbrook). In what could turn out to be the final edition of the Jackpot, the race was won by Gunnevera (Dialed In). After his 2016 Jackpot victory, he went on to win the GII Xpressbet Fountain of Youth S. and finish second in the GI Travers S.

Panel Discusses Sexual Harassment at Tracks

Panel said backstretch workers need to know where to turn.

Members of a panel discussing sexual harassment issues at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association convention March 16 in New Orleans said potential places for workers to turn include backstretch chaplains, horsemen’s groups, backstretch health workers, and stewards.

Loretta Brennan, executive director of the Arkansas HBPA, applauded the move by the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to place forms in its office that allow workers to fill out a complaint about sexual harassment. Brennan acknowledged that not every worker may feel comfortable filling out such a form, but noted that it’s important to have options and make workers aware of those options so they don’t feel isolated.

Jennifer Johnson, vice president of Mountaineer HBPA who grew up on the backstretch, said workers need to have the ability to seek help and know where to turn.

“They do have to seek some help to make sure that behavior doesn’t continue,” Johnson said, noting that victims need to understand that they didn’t do anything wrong, and by speaking up they can stop this behavior. “They have to understand they have rights.”

The panel said sexual harassment can occur on the front side as well, and those workers should address the human resources department. They noted that where a worker can turn is not as well defined on the backstretch, and language barriers as well as the enclosed environment can potentially lead to feelings of isolation.

Brennan said that like every work environment, sexual harassment occurs on the backstretch. Some of those workers, who may not feel  they are in a position of power, have shared their stories with Brennan.

“It definitely happens. I have had young women come to me in need and seek advice. I always reach out to my chaplain. I advise them that they can seek legal avenues. If it’s serious enough, they can hire a lawyer, but that hasn’t happened,” Brennan said. “My chaplain goes and talks with them, and gets pretty stern with them. I don’t think it’s happened again once I’ve had that conversation.”

Panel moderator Lynne Schuller recalled a personal incident where a horseman client she was representing at a hearing before the stewards said something highly offensive to her.

“I was going into a stewards meeting on a horseman, and he said something to me so shocking that I won’t repeat it,” Schuller said. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘You idiot, you’re going to say that to me right before a meeting. What would you say to an employee you hired mucking a stall?'”

Schuller said she informed the stewards of what was said, and they took some level of action against the horseman. She said it was never a problem again. But she said women working on the backstretch may not feel like they are in a position to say something. She said there have to be ways to communicate, and any victim has to feel comfortable in telling her story.

Richard Riedel, executive director of the Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund, said horsemen and backstretch groups should start activities and events that are popular with women like yoga classes and self defense. He said as members become comfortable in that atmosphere, advocates can present on topics like sexual harassment and inform them of their options.

Dan Waits, executive director of Race Track Chaplaincy of America, said part of chaplaincy training now includes training on sexual harassment.

“While the horse racing environment is unique, this problem goes on in any environment. As employers and supervisors, we need to provide a safe environment. Some of this is not just about sexual advances, some is about control,” Waits said. “People want to work in a safe environment where they are respected. It’s that simple.”

Louisiana Horsemen Aim to Strengthen Aftercare Support

Lawmakers considering changes after stories showed Thoroughbreds in kill pens.

 

The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association supports state legislation that would make changes to its aftercare program the organization believes will lead to greater participation.

Lawmakers are considering changes after stories and social media posts showed Thoroughbreds who had raced at Delta Downs in kill pens. Industry groups also are rallying to put additional safety nets in place.

The issues in Louisiana proved a timely topic for a panel on aftercare at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association convention March 15 in New Orleans.

Louisiana HBPA president Benard Chatters said his organization supports the proposed legislation, which would have all horsemen participate in a program of financial support for aftercare that could be based on a per-start basis or a commitment from purse earnings. Chatters said the current Louisiana HBPA program allows horsemen to opt in to support aftercare, but he believes moving to a system where horsemen are in the program unless they opt out will see improved participation.

“If they’re already in the program, a lot of them won’t make the effort to opt out,” Chatters said, noting that there may not be full awareness of the current opt-in program.

Patrick Richmond, president of Louisiana Horse Rescue Association, said similar legislation has been proposed before, but he thinks the recent effort has a better chance of passing because of support from the Louisiana HBPA; Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs owner Boyd Gaming; state Quarter Horse breeders; and the racing commission. They expect support from the state’s other two track owners, Churchill Downs Inc. and Harrah’s.

Richmond said aftercare groups would like to see a commitment of $5 a start. Chatters said Louisiana HBPA might be more receptive to a plan that makes a commitment from purse earnings after a horse has won. Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance operations consultant Stacie Clark, who moderated the panel, said either type of approach can work.

Michele Rodriguez, founder and president of Elite Thoroughbreds and a board member of the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association, said Boyd will commit to matching funds by horsemen, and she’s certain CDI also will get on board.

Chatters noted, with the emergence of social media, a small percentage of horsemen not acting properly can endanger the sport.

“The largest percentage of trainers and owners are responsible,” Chatters said. “It only takes one person, or one horse. … Something happens in some remote corner of the state, and all of a sudden it’s all over the nation because of social media.”

Panel participants and National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback said that something as simple as improved communication between horsemen and aftercare facilities can make the difference for a horse.

“We have to make that connection and keep them together,” Hamelback said. “Aftercare needs to become part of your business plan.”

Jessica Hammond, program administrator of Maryland’s Beyond the Wire—a state aftercare initiative of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Maryland Jockey Club, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, and Maryland jockeys—encouraged horsemen from states without similar aftercare programs to take the initiative.

She said owners are contributing $11 a start, and it’s enjoyed about “99% participation.” She said jockeys will contribute about $60,000 this year. The program works with six TAA-accredited facilities.

“Just jump in. … You kind of just have to get the idea on how you want your program to run and just start it,” Hammond said. “You’re not going to have everything perfect from the get-go. You’re going to have to tweak things along the way, and that’s OK. There’s no reason for not starting.”

Hamelback emphasized that the stakes are high, and not having an aftercare plan in place is no longer acceptable.

“We have to educate people that there is a second chance after racing. We have to stop these horses from getting to the pen,” Hamelback said. “We need racetracks’ help, but we also need horsemen’s help when it comes to education.”

Nominations to Open for the Second Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards

 

Nominations will open May 8 for the 2017 Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards which were held in North America for the first time in 2016. Nominations can be submitted until Aug. 1. This year, there will be a total of six awards which will carry prize money of $128,000, an increase of $13,000 over last year.

Godolphin, the global racing stable founded by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is the principal sponsor of the awards in association with The Jockey Club, the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

Godolphin also sponsors the equivalent Stud and Stable Staff Awards in Ireland, Australia, Britain, and France.

Dan Pride, COO of Godolphin in America, said, “On behalf of Godolphin, we would like to thank everyone that made the first year of the TIEA a huge success, including the nominators. The involvement of The Jockey Club, the National HBPA and TOBA, as well as media support from BloodHorse, the TDN, Daily Racing Form, and TVG, was instrumental in bringing these awards to fruition. The first group of nominees were so impressive across the board and we fully expect to see that again this year. It’s heartwarming the hardworking men and women in our industry receive the recognition that they truly deserve.”

Dan Metzger, president of TOBA, commented, “To be in the audience as the awards were announced was a special moment for everyone in the room. It was a well-deserved acknowledgement of those dedicated employees who are often overlooked, but are so vital in making our industry a success.  We strongly encourage everyone to nominate deserving individuals they know who are doing their part to take care of our equine athletes.”

A new award category has been added, “The Newcomer Award,” which will recognize an individual who has been working in any area of Thoroughbred racing and/or breeding for less than five years as of May 8. In addition to the prize money for this award, the winner will also receive a five-day educational tour to Dubai with flights and accommodation included.

The Keeneland Association is honored to host the awards again this year which will take place Oct. 13.  Bill Thomason, president and chief executive officer of Keeneland, said, “Keeneland is privileged to be part of this very special program. These nominees are the true heroes of our industry and deserving of recognition for their commitment to excellence in racing.”

For more information and to nominate online, go to www.godolphinusawards.com.

THOROUGHBRED INDUSTRY EMPLOYEE AWARDS LAUNCHED IN USA

Open to anyone working in a supporting role in racing and breeding, TIEA recognize and reward the dedicated, hard-working people who are the backbone of the industry.

Announced by Godolphin in May, the TIEA are in the homestretch for nominations for five award categories with winners to be announced at a ceremony at Keeneland in October. In partnership with the National HBPA, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) and The Jockey Club, the awards are open to anyone working in horseracing and breeding across the USA in order to recognize and reward the dedicated, hard-working people who are the backbone of the industry and play an invaluable role in caring for our equine athletes.

John Ferguson, Chief Executive and Racing Manager for Godolphin, said: “His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin are proud and honored to be able to launch the Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards in America. We speak of our equine athletes at length but it is also important to ensure that those individuals who make up the fabric of the sport and work tirelessly behind the scenes get the merit they deserve. We look forward to watching this initiative become a significant event in the racing and breeding calendar this year and in the years to come.”

Trainers Kiaran McLaughlin and Bob Baffert, owners Maggi Moss and Sol Kumin, breeder and owner John Phillips, Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron and former jockey and broadcast racing analyst Donna Brothers, have taken on ambassadorial roles in support of the Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards.

The TIEA ceremony will be held on opening day of Keeneland’s fall meet, October 7, with recognition given to a total of 13 individuals in five different categories: Leadership Award Farm, Leadership Award Racing, Dedication to Breeding Award, Dedication to Racing Award and a Thoroughbred Industry Community Award.

In addition to a commemorative trophy for the winners, three individual awards in each category will be distributed for first place ($10,000), second place ($2,500) and third place ($2,500) in the first four categories respectively, with a single first-place award given in the fifth. On top of this, farm and racing employees associated with each award recipient will receive monetary recognition. Total prize money for the five awards will be $115,000.

The nominating process closes on Monday, August 1st. For more information go to

www.godolphinUSawards.com

 

 

 

TOBA, based in Lexington, Ky., was formed in 1961 and is a national trade organization of leading Thoroughbred breeders and owners. TOBA’s mission is to improve the economics, integrity and pleasure of the sport on behalf of Thoroughbred owners and breeders. Projects managed by TOBA include the American Graded Stakes Committee, TOBA Owners Concierge, Claiming Crown, Ownership Seminars, Breeding, Conformation & Pedigree Clinics and the Sales Integrity Program. TOBA, in collaboration with The Jockey Club, has also created a free information resource called OwnerView to provide pertinent information to new, prospective and current Thoroughbred owners. TOBA provides international representation for U.S. owners and breeders on the International Grading and Race Planning Advisory Committee, International Cataloguing Standards Committee and International Breeders Federation. Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) is the charitable arm of TOBA. TOBA Media Properties, a subsidiary of TOBA, owns The Horse magazine, Eclipse Press and is co-owner of The Blood-Horse LLC in a partnership with The Jockey Club Information Systems. TOBA is represented on the board of directors of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium as founding members.

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