Wednesday, March 30, 2011

As Easy As ABC, um, CTHA?

A divorce among owners and trainers along with an ugly custody battle over a whimpering industry is not what's best for California thoroughbred racing.

The Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) have come under scrutiny by vocal owners, like Jerry Jamgotchian, over the past six months because of alleged mishandling of funds. Arnold Zetcher, horse owner and former President & CEO of Talbots, has stepped down as chairman before his term was half finished. He served in that capacity since July 2010. A winner of the Finance World CEO of the Year award in 1995, volunteering for the TOC job was apparently more than Zetcher had bargained for. This was his TOC bio statement:

"I believe very strongly in California racing and, as I did back in 2000, believe that it should be the best in the world. today, there is a good deal of uncertainty in our industry, especially in California. If I can use my business and management background to help establish stability in our industry, that would be my number one goal. Rather than worrying about whether there will be a future, we should focus on doing all we can to deliver a world-class product to our fans. And our owners, who provide the major part of the funding for our sport, must be recognized for their contribution."

In his place at the TOC steps Jack Owens, former Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the E. & J. Gallo Winery. Here is his opening salvo:
“As an owner of 30 years,” said Owens, “I am grateful that there is an organization dedicated to the advancement of owners’ business interests in the industry, comprised of good people who volunteer their time as a public service to the industry, and backed up by an experienced and dedicated staff. As owners, we need this kind of representation, and we need to preserve continuity in the TOC, given its track record of achievement and the need for an organization to protect owners’ rights.”
Did Zetcher, or has Owens, truly grasped the TOC Mission and Objectives? You can judge for yourself by reading the original document or just peruse the objectives (below):

OBJECTIVES

The overall purpose of TOC is to provide effective leadership to the Thoroughbred racing industry in California. Among its objectives are:

1. assuring competent representation of California Thoroughbred owners in its negotiations with racing associations and before regulatory and legislative bodies, while expanding membership involvement in TOC's activities;

2. improving the economics of horse ownership, through:

a. fair tax policies which eliminate the discriminatory tax burdens on Thoroughbred owners, which will free up additional purse revenues;
b. promoting expanded horse racing wagering opportunities, through added simulcasting, phone betting and Internet betting;
c. supporting marketing programs to better sell horseracing to the public with the purpose of increasing track attendance and participation as well as revenue;
d. developing other revenue sources, such as sponsorships; and
e. developing cost efficiencies.

3. assuring efficient simulcasting while preserving and improving live racing in the northern and southern regions of California;

4. improving the quality of simulcast production, utilizing the talents of skills of TOC members with television and film production experience.

5. increasing purses while assuring a fair distribution between stakes and overnights and all other categories of races;

6. supporting the development of national centralized marketing programs to increase fan involvement throughout the country.

7. improving marketing and sales programs to improve bottom line profitability, using the personal expertise of individuals owners;

8. promoting the integrity of the game, acting as a watchdog with respect to the fair administration of the rules of racing and the modification of such rules when they enhance the games integrity;

9. communicating regularly with its member s on TOC's activities; soliciting membership input on the direction of TOC's policies and activities;

10. attracting new owners, through various programs such as horse courses and seminars, as well as providing more sophisticated programs for experienced owners;

11. pursuing policies to improve the quality of California's breeding programs, with the purpose of improving the overall quality of California's racing programs;

12. creating a coalition of "horsemen", coordinating the efforts of various segments of the industry, including owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys, veterinarians, farriers, etc., as well as other groups and individuals impacting the industry toward the realization of common goals.

Approved by TOC Board: February 5, 1998

Enter Roger Licht and the newly formed California Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (CTHA) to challenge the TOC as the owners' official voice in the Golden State. What is their agenda? Not to disband the TOC (yet), but to pressure the TOC membership into allowing more owner/trainer representation on the TOC board of directors.

Here are the new group's other gripes:
- “fail to disclose the receipt of in excess of $1 million from NTRA”;

- “refuse a unique opportunity to secure concessions from the Indians, when the Indians were seeking renew of their compacts”;

- “spend in excess of $1 million (of horsemen’s money) in an effort to find a group seeking to purchase Santa Anita”;

- “hold all meetings behind closed doors”;

- “disenfranchise owner/trainers”;

- “condone and encourage wagers that result in handle declines”;

- “lack of support for Northern California racing”;

- “veto contractual opportunities with Australia”;

- “failure to respond to the horseplayers’ boycott.”

So, is an overthrow immenent? Well, yes and no. According to the linked Paulick Report post, it seems only 8% of the TOC membership voted at the last board election. In order for Licht and the CTHA to decertify the TOC, they must petition the California Horse Racing Board with 10% of the TOC membership.

Oh by the way, John Sadler, president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT), and the CTT Northern California vice-president Gloria Haley, were named as charter members of the CTHA.

The TOC was created in 1993 to give a voice to horse owners after the trainers boycotted entries at Hollywood Park in opposition to night racing. The CTT evolved in 1995 out of the California Division of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Agency (HBPA), giving California trainers their own platform. Now, the CTHA, with members in both the TOC and CTT, are asking for the agencies to find a common ground.

Confused?

Hey, at that's one thing the CTHA, TOC, or CTT has already accomplished together!!!

Making friends, influencing people, building bridges...change we can believe in!?!?!?!

3 comments:

The_Knight_Sky said...

Thanks for the overview in California racing. There needs to be a complete overhaul of ALL the groups.

There is so much conflict of interests on part of everyone and there will be no progress without objective people making the proper decisions going forward.

Amateurcapper said...

Thanks for reading.

I completely agree!

Adding more factions only serves to divide the status quo. There will be hard feelings.

I believe Cali is in a unique position to serve as a model to the industry as a whole. Agree on a commissioner, give him/her renewable two year terms based on performance, have the commissioner pick representatives from every industry angle to make up the board of directors (renewable with the commissioner based on performance) just like the "major sports" in the U.S.

Uniformity is what the game sorely needs. Without an infrastructure there will never be progress.

Brian Appleton said...

I'm not from CA but I've been trying to follow what's been going on for the last couple of months and have to admit I'm completely confused. It's seems like they can't get anything done without conflict all around.

Racing really needs to become more of a national organization than individual state organizations. That's probably the only way many of the problems (drug regulations etc.) will ever find structure.

Great post as always Rob!