May 29, 2017
Since October 2005, FQHRA has used our mission statement as our guide in decision making. Our mission statement says ďFQHRA was formed to represent the people who have an interest in racing the American Quarter Horse in Florida in matters pertaining to business, property, and activities of the association. One of the primary goals of FQHRA is to ensure that the welfare of the American Quarter Horse is paramount and that every American Quarter Horse at all times be treated humanely and with dignity, respect and compassion. FQHRA is committed to promoting American Quarter Horse racing in Florida along with providing beneficial services to its members and to serve as a positive link between the members of the FQHRA and the AQHA." FQHRA is the state racing affiliate of the AQHA and we conduct our business with that very important fact always in mind. We are working with AQHA to make sure the Florida comeback is a solid one.
FQHRA worked in the legislature from 2006 through the 2009 legislative sessions to bring AQHA racing to Hialeah from November 2009 through March 2016 with meets reaching 40 days of straight AQHA racing and more than $5.6 million in purses per meet. Many of the year end champions started their rise to the top at Hialeah. FQHRA has overcome significant obstacles in those 7 race meets and each time we persevered . After 4 years of hard work in cooperation with the FHBPA and FTBOA, we got the ARCI rules passed legislatively in Florida. FQHRA eventually worked to get new stalls put in for the horses at Hialeah so that the horses would be safer and more comfortable. I could go on and on about the amount of work it takes to have 40 days of racing for the members of FQHRA and AQHA. The majority of the work is the 325 days surrounding the 40 days of racing.
In the 2010 legislative session Hialeah was given a gaming permit in exchange for racing a full schedule of live racing of American Quarter horses. The intent was a partnership which would make money for Hialeah and also serve as an economic driver for the agricultural industry of the state of Florida. Each horse on a race track provides 7 jobs ranging from veterinarians, to farriers to CPAís, to construction workers, to truck and trailer sales and manufacturing and lots of lawyers. Hialeah appears to have decided to attempt to renege on the partnership with the horsemen and people of the state of Florida and to keep the majority of the benefits of its Quarter Horse based gaming permit to itself.
The current license was actually given to Hialeah in March 2016 and was based on their purse agreement with FQHRA that was in place when they made their 2016/2017 racino/slots license application in January 2016. Hialeah was actively holding a FQHRA horsemenís group meet at the time the license was submitted so FQHRA was obviously the group that represented the horsemen at the track. However on the eve of the license renewal on March 15, 2016, Hialeah formed the South Florida Quarter Horse Association and that is the ďgroupĒ that is representing the horsemen at the meet that begins this week. Until just recently, the SFQHA only had one member and that was a lobbyist/lawyer for Hialeah. The original President and Vice President resigned last summer.
Florida rules state that at least 5 horses must enter a race. Hialeah is reportedly entering 5 horses, scratching 3 and having a 2 horse match race for 110 yards. This is done 8 times to complete one performance or day of racing. The 8 races are then repeated to complete 2 days of racing in one afternoon. 2 performances per day for 20 days equals 40 performances. We do not know if the horses get tested or what, if any, safety precautions are in place for the horse and rider. There will be win betting only for obvious reasons. Reportedly Hialeah has all the races filled until the end of the meet and no one else is allowed to enter or join SFQHA.
All that being said, this is just one more obstacle FQHRA plans to overcome. Hopefully when we look back a few years from now we can say that Hialeah showcasing fake racing actually helped shine the light on the sham horse racing that is trying to take over legitimate horse racing, not only in Florida but it is in the works in other states. Florida is the testing ground. Our plan is to solidify legitimate AQHA racing in Florida for many years to come. Regretfully the 2017 season is dead. We do have plans to secure the 2018 racing season. In the meantime anyone who entered the 2017 or 2018 Sunshine State Derby will receive a check by June 20 for the entire amount paid in. This includes those who had dropped out way back before any of this happened and were not currently nominated anyway. The entry form says that a 10% administrative fee can be subtracted from any refunds. However, there will be no administrative fees subtracted. When we get 2018 and many years in the future secure, we will open up those races again and the plan is for them to be bigger and better.
There are plenty of naysayers out there and thatís just the way they are. They like to see their name on social media and these are the type of people who actually hurt our industry. FQHRA appreciates all of you who truly understand the business of putting on a quality race meet. Thank you for your support and for your patience. FQHRA will be working just as hard for you in 2017 and 2018 as we were back in 2006 through 2009 when there had been no AQHA racing in Florida since 1992. We got it done then and we will get the job done now. Itís not an overnight process so please continue to bear with us. What is happening here will affect the whole country as pertaining to horse racing.
In the meantime, appreciate and take the best care possible of these great horses we have been so blessed to breed, own and train and donít take the opportunities that you currently have for granted. Also letís remember to honor our military service men and women today for allowing us to have the privilege of having horse racing as one of the things we think about most. Life is not so simple for much of the world.
Ron Smith, President