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House Bill 833 Amended. Horsemen’s Funds Remain Intact

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LTBA Contact:
Roger Heitzmann
(504) 947-4676
roger@louisianabred.com

May 3, 2018

LTBA Legislative Update:  House Bill 833

House Bill 833 Amended. Horsemen’s Funds Remain Intact

House Bill 833 was presented to the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee Tuesday, May 1. The bill was amended so that any horsemens funds that may have been affected by this bill are safe. Many thanks to all who contacted members of the House Appropriations  Committee. Your involvement has made all the difference! This has been a real work of cooperation between members of the LTBA, LQHBA, and LaHBPA, proving that when we join forces we all benefit.

 

 

For more information, please call 1-800-772-1195 or visit louisianabred.com.

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.

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.”

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