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ITHA News

ITHA Board Candidate Speeches and Written Statements





Candidate Biographies / Statements

The following biographies and statements were provided directly by the candidates. These statements were not mandatory, and the ones included were the ones received. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

Please note running for both President and Director is permitted by the ITHA Bylaws.

President Candidates

Chris M. Block

I would like to take this opportunity to address my nomination for President of the ITHA. First, I would like to thank our current President, Mike Campbell, for his leadership and dedication in representing the Northern Illinois horsemen. For the past 12 years, Mike has poured his heart and soul into fighting for horsemen on all levels of the industry under these very difficult conditions.

I submitted my nomination based on the thought that the time has arrived for fresh leadership in the position of President. In the past two decades, I have held the position as Director-Trainer. Also, within those years, I have been Vice President and served on committees such as the Contract Committee which successfully negotiated contentious race meet agreements with Arlington Park that have directly benefitted the purse structure. Additionally, I have proudly been the President of the ITHA’s racehorse retirement program, Galloping Out.

My experience in serving in these positions has enabled me to garner valuable knowledge and leadership skills in representing ITHA members as President. Our industry is in the most challenging era in Illinois horse racing history; if the membership feels like fresh leadership is warranted, I stand ready to take on the position of President with energy and dedication for the membership.

Michael B. Campbell

PURSE INCREASE coming to Hawthorne!  $2,700,000 was negotiated by me and the ITHA executive director.

To be an effective ITHA President one must be committed to serving as a policy leader!  I pledge to remain fully engaged representing your interest as I have in the past.

At this very moment Endeavor Properties (Roy Arnold) and I are in discussions with the Bears on saving racing at Arlington Park.  The consortium that I put together in 2019 is still in the fight.  This is not the time for change.   If re-elected there WILL be a two-track solution, one for Thoroughbreds and a separate for Standardbreds.  

 Retaliation by Arlington Park and the IRB was what I came to expect because of my determined advocacy.  That dynamic has changed so much that my advocacy is recognized in the legislature by the IRB and as a national advocate for racing.   ITHA offers more services than any in the nation.  If re-elected I have requested this board to return to the HBPA which will enhance even more benefits to our members.  

During my tenure my advocacy has resulted in over $56,000,000 of budget money combined with a successful Riverboat judgment allocated to purses.  My legislative affairs team was instrumental in passing the gaming bill.  I successfully fought CDI on stall rent and the elimination of whips and twice stopped the export of our signal on the Kentucky Derby resulting in favorable contracts.  Last year at Arlington the ITHA negotiated to increase overnight purses from $130,000 to $155,000 by decreasing open stakes. Breeders’ awards will increase from 11.5% to 20% once gaming begins.  Incompass Bookkeeping was added and the Galloping Out retirement program founded by our friend Nate Ruffolo.  We stand together to secure the future of racing for ourselves and future generations.

Trainer/Owner-Trainer Director Candidates

Chris M. Block

I would like to take this opportunity to address my nomination for director of the ITHA. First, I would like to thank our current President, Mike Campbell, for his leadership and dedication in representing the Northern Illinois horsemen. For the past 12 years, Mike has poured his heart and soul into fighting for horsemen on all levels of the industry under these very difficult conditions.

In the past two decades, I have held the position as Director-Trainer. Also, within those years, I have been Vice President and served on committees such as the Contract Committee which successfully negotiated contentious race meet agreements with Arlington Park that have directly benefitted the purse structure. Additionally, I have proudly been the President of the ITHA’s racehorse retirement program, Galloping Out.

My experience in serving in these positions has enabled me to garner valuable knowledge and leadership skills in representing ITHA members as director. Our industry is in the most challenging era in Illinois horse racing history; if the membership feels like fresh leadership is warranted, I stand ready to take on the position of director with energy and dedication for the membership.

Patti Miller

Hello, I am Patti Miller and have been a lifelong horsewoman. I came through the ranks starting with scrubbing feed tubs and raking when I was a child, to hotwalking, grooming, ponying, and earning my trainers license at the age of 19.

Together with my late husband Danny, we developed many fine horses including Grade 3 winner Romacaca.

I have always been an advocate for our employees, serving on the board of the CTHF, and the horses as a volunteer for Galloping Out.

I’m running for the ITHA board as an Owner-Trainer because I am worried for the future of Illinois racing and figured it was time to get involved. If elected to the ITHA board, I will be a voice for all horsemen and an advocate for Chicago Racing.

Tony Mitchell

My name is Tony Mitchell, and I am an Illinois Trainer and have campaigned many fine thoroughbreds for over 30 years.

Illinois racing needs to return to what it once had—210 race days per year and 9 races daily.  In recent years, we have had less than half and has been very expensive to horsemen.

One of the major reasons for the decrease in race days is the decrease in the foal population in Illinois. In 2001, we had 1104 Illinois foal born and in 2020 there were 152.  This has cost the industry a minimum of 50% in lost revenues.

Also, tracks cannot profit with empty stalls.  We need to return to a strong foal population that can provide growth, security, and revenue.

I would like to work toward increasing Illinois purses, providing incentives to increase our foal population and promoting Illinois racing to motivate our industry and bringing in new horsemen.  It will not be any easy challenge.

The promotion of Illinois racing has dramatically decreased.  We once had a TV replay show twice per day; media turf writers promoting racing; and The Illinois Racing News.  We need to investigate what new avenues are available to us to increase our exposure to horse racing.

On the positive side, our legislative effort succeeded in racetracks being eligible for casinos and the metropolitan Chicago is a strong market for media opportunities.

I would like to work with our Board to create a plan that provides priorities to future planning as is done by many successful companies and organizations.

I have the will to succeed and am anxious to get started to move the industry forward. 

Tom Swearingen

I am currently serving as a Trainer Director on the board of directors for the ITHA and would like the opportunity to continue contributing on the board.  I have been involved in this industry since 1989 and I have experienced the many changes that have taken place and the significant decline of our breeding program.  I have experienced all facets of the industry from owner, trainer, and breeder, to sales.  Like many of you I continue to support political participation that would allow Illinois horsemen the opportunity to compete and strengthen our purse structure through whatever legislative means available.

I would like to encourage Illinois horsemen to participate in the issues that concern and affect our industry and our livelihood.

 

Owner-Director Candidates

Thomas Fedro Sr.

I believe in Illinois horse racing and have a passion for bringing it back to its former prestigious status.  I am well-versed in the issues we are facing and remain committed to seeing improvement in our industry.

I humbly ask that you support me in my reelection to the ITHA Board.

Steven Holland

I have been an ITHA Director for over 25 years. I have been actively involved in the ITHA’s political activities in Springfield, helping to oversee Galloping Out – our horse retirement program - and taking part in passing a gaming bill that is intended to increase purses, eliminate recapture, and preserve live racing. We now need to see the benefits of that bill come to fruition which is why I am running for reelection.