Marking Kentucky Oaks Day With Optimism and
Renewed Advocacy for Our Industry's Future
|Mike Campbell, ITHA President |
Dear Fellow Horsemen:
I often end my columns for Illinois horsemen with the simple observation: "I'm proud to serve the finest horsemenI know." It's my way of acknowledging the awesome dedication of my colleagues while reminding myself that working on your behalf is a tremendous privilege.
Year after year, Illinois owners, trainers and breeders go to work and breed, claim, purchase and, ultimately, race thoroughbred horses. Yes, we do this to fuel our own passion. But we also do it to support and further the best interests of our state's racing industry - an industry facing great challenges, as we know full well.
Today, on Kentucky Oaks Day, we revere the best three-year-old fillies in the world. We reflect on our recent and successful months at Hawthorne Racecourse - its 124th year of racing - and extend our gratitude to Tim Carey and his management team for supporting a full spring and fall meet through these difficult times. And we prepare to embrace a summer of racing at Arlington Park.
We eagerly anticipate the best two minutes in sports, the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby, and wish the owner and trainer members of all the horsemen's associations, whether THA, HBPA or TOC, the best of racing luck.
I personally wish Rick Violette, President of the THA and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the best with Upstart, his horse in the Derby.
But as we celebrate, we also reunite in our advocacy for measures that will position Illinois racing for a stronger future - one that will benefit owners and trainers as well as tracks, renew our state's breeding industry, protect the tens of thousands of jobs that horsemen support across Illinois agribusiness, and serve the best interests of the state's taxpayers.
The IllinoisThoroughbred Horsemen's Association will continue to press, as we have for several years running, for passage of legislation that will authorize slots-at-tracks for purposes of enhancing purses. We all recognize that this measure is necessary to help Illinois racing once again compete with other states where purses already are supplemented with slot revenue.
We are cautiously optimistic that such legislation will pass this year and that it will reflect horsemen priorities:
- Agreed rates to support purses.
- Guaranteed live racing opportunities.
- Elimination of recapture. (In 2014, Illinois tracks took an estimated $13.19 million in recapture subsidies - dollars removed from horsemen purses to subsidize track operations.)
In the meantime, we look forward to maximizing fields this summer at Arlington to help bolster the handle. This racing season will be the first in many years where the purse account must sustain itself (without a deficit) based on commissions earned from handle. This means the tracks will pay out only what is earned to purses.
As we prepare to face reduced purses due to the expiration of impact fee subsides, including for Illinois owner awards, we call upon our continued optimism and strength to carry us through. Larger fields create larger pools and therefore higher payouts. And that translates into greater interest in both the AP simulcasting product and on-track handle.
Some may criticize our optimism but they cannot question our devotion to Illinois racing, our equine athletes, and the working men and women who make it possible. We believe in our sport and we believe that, through our continued efforts, we can help position our state's industry for a more promising future.
As always, I'm proud to serve the finest horsemen I know.
Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association