Gulfstream Park Draws Ire From Horsemen for Running Last-Minute Quarter-Horse Race

Categories: Broward News
Two major horse owners' associations are once again miffed by a local casino giant's efforts to conduct races in order to keep a second gambling permit under Florida's twisted rules for pari-mutuel casinos.

Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach usually runs thoroughbred races, according to an extensive contract with the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), which promises horsemen substantial purses and a cut of slots revenues. Under Florida law, this racing allows the casino to have slot machines as well.

It also retains a second permit, for quarter-horse racing -- which allows it to keep a second gambling-room permit, in case it should expand to a second location. To keep that permit active, Gulfstream has to run two quarter-horse races a year.

They ran one on Sunday, closing day of the regular season, with very short notice. And the horsemen's association is not happy.

FHBPA, along with a sister organization that organizes quarter-horse races, calls the Easter Sunday race "illegal," saying that law requires all quarter-horse events (in which horses dash along a straight 400m track) to be overseen by the association.

Kent Stirling, executive director of the FHBPA, says his organization was informed of the last-minute race to keep the permit last Wednesday or Thursday. Since Friday was a holiday leading into the weekend, he says, he could do little to stop it, although he says the association's contract gives it approval over all quarter-horse events.

At the root of the issue, Stirling says, is an attempt by Gulfstream to freeze out more expensive horsemen in favor of barrel racers, who run their horses for less. "Barrel racers get nothing," says Stirling, while Gulfstream can "keep all the money that we would normally be getting in purses for thoroughbreds. Barrel racers are very happy with just $2,000 a day."

Stirling speculates that Gulfstream is planning on cutting out thoroughbred horsemen and their expensive contract if it should build a new hotel/casino.

Meanwhile, David Joseph in the media office at Gulfstream Park released a statement on the issue on Good Friday:

Gulfstream Park has been advised by counsel to exercise our second permit on closing day, April 8, or face the consequence of revocation of the permit in the future. Since December we have worked in good faith with the horsemen on this subject. We will continue to work with the horsemen and will continue welcoming their input and suggestions.

The contract for the barrel racers, whose main purview is the loopdy-loop sprint of rodeo fame, was written by David Romanik. Romanik recently teamed up with Ron Bergeron to apply for a jai-alai permit in Broward (no more quarter-horse racing permits were available); he also operates a barrel racing facility in Gretna that's drawn jeers from the horsemen's association.

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Joint Statement by the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (the Florida Chapter of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association) and the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (the Florida arm of the American Quarter Horse Racing Association) on the final event at Gulfstream Park on April 8, 2012:

“It should be advised that the unlawful April 8, 2012 Gulfstream Park event billed as a ‘Quarter Horse’ race is not recognized, authorized or regulated by the American Quarter Horse Association, which regulates and oversees the integrity of all lawful Quarter Horse racing globally and in the United States, including Florida. At no time was the American Quarter Horse Association been contacted about approving Gulfstream’s plans for this event.

Further, the horses in the highly questionable April 8 event were not known even beencertified as actual registered, accredited Quarter Horses. The lack of a regulation starting gate and the bizarre use of barrel racing riders mounted in Western saddles as ‘jockeys’should be of great concern to the public as to the legitimacy of the fiasco. No Florida regulators even intervened as illegal same-day entries were simply thrust onto the track at the last minute after the "race" had officially closed.

Why Gulfstream Park has chosen now to so flagrantly violate its current and binding contract with the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association remains a mystery, but track officials have been duly notified that our organization, which represents over 6,000 Thoroughbred horsemen in the State of Florida, will use all necessary remedies to ensure racing there is implemented properly, with integrity and according to our contract, and both state and federal law.

The question still remains as to whether a race was actually ever even run under Gulfstream's Quarter Horse 'After Care' license on December 31, 2011, and whether the State of Florida will allow that, combined with the mockery of the unlawful April 8 event, to technically fulfill Florida’s two-year live racing requirements, with the goal toward opening a new casino that would include additional slot machines."

Shaquin Knutz
Shaquin Knutz

Who gave the AQHA authority to run a monopoly on quarter horse racing?

Just the facts, ma'am
Just the facts, ma'am

I fully agree with you.  The FQHA and the FHBPA have no authority to "recognize, authorize or regulate" anything, let alone require Gulfstream to "contact them to approve their plans for this event".  Ridiculous.  They are a breed registry and owner's association at best.  They have zero authority, other than the paying out of award money for certain types of races.  They do have a contract with Gulfstream, however, we all know that contracts can be renegotiated, and it certainly does not give them the authority to tell Gulfstream how to run their business.  And they should really consider themselves lucky, since "upon receiving a state license, each thoroughbred owner and trainer shall receive automatic membership in the horsemen's association, unless in 30 days they decline".  Since they are the "only" horsemen's association and are given "automatic membership" that makes them the association representing the majority of owners.  That is the "monopoly" that they have.  It just guarantees them a majority of members. BUT, if somebody wanted to start their own "horsemen's association" and were able to obtain a majority of the owner's, then they would be up a Creek (Entertainment Gretna)...

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