Renewed Leadership for Illinois Thoroughbred Owners, Trainers & Backstretch Workers

Greetings from ITHA President Chris Block

I ran for president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to do my part to help our organization advocate for the best interests of thoroughbred owners, trainers and backstretch workers — those of us who have devoted our lives to Illinois horse racing. I’m grateful for the support and well wishes of fellow Illinois thoroughbred owners and trainers as I embrace new commitments, on their behalf, as president of the ITHA.

Thoroughbred racing in Illinois will survive the coming year with a truncated meet at Hawthorne Race Course. The ITHA commends Tim Carey and his management team at Hawthorne for moving forward to develop a racino operation that, once operational, will pay dividends for owners and trainers in the form of higher purses. We look forward to hearing positive news about when construction of Hawthorne’s casino complex, currently paused, will restart.

But a shorter meet at a single track in Chicagoland will not be sufficient to sustain Illinois thoroughbred racing over the longer term. A second race track in northeastern Illinois is necessary to substantially expand live racing opportunities and support the livelihoods of our members. Indeed, a second track situated as a racino, exactly as Illinois lawmakers intended with the 2019 gaming expansion law, could support growth of Illinois racing and, at last, help Illinois racing compete with racing in other states.

The ITHA will remain active at the Capitol. This spring legislative begins Wednesday and is scheduled to end nearly two months early — a highly compressed legislative calendar that will require for us to remain closely engaged and nimble. We will keep you apprised of major developments.

Later this year, the ITHA also will help our membership navigate the implications of the federal Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which becomes effective July 1. Expect to hear much more from us on this matter.

As we move ahead, I’m thankful to Mike Campbell for his tireless dedication and devotion in representing the membership over the past 12 years as president of the ITHA. Mike poured everything he had into fighting for what was best for owners, trainers and backstretch workers on every level of the industry.

The ITHA and its staff are here to serve and support the horsemen and horsewomen of Illinois. Myself and the Board of Directors, together with ITHA Executive Director David McCaffrey, are focused now on formulating our goals and objectives for the coming year. If you have any questions or suggestions as to how we might improve the quality of our service, please let us know. We wish you and your families well in this New Year.