Sports betting and its possible effects on horse racing. Stemming the dearth of backside employees. Horses' inadvertent exposure to recreational and prescription medications. Needing solutions, not just funding, for Thoroughbred aftercare. Where the trainer absolute-insurer rule stands. Horsemen as citizen marketers.
Those are among the discussions taking center stage at the National HBPA Convention, March 13-17 at New Orleans' Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel in the fabled French Quarter. The convention is sponsored by the Louisiana division of the Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association. Details on registration, hotel reservations and agenda are available at nationalhbpa.com/convention.
Prominent owner-breeder Clay Whitham of Whitham Family Thoroughbreds will deliver the keynote address the afternoon of March 14. The convention features panels and presentations March 14 and 15, along with the morning of March 16, followed by an afternoon of racing at the Fair Grounds. Convention registration opens March 13, with the HBPA board meeting the morning of March 17.
“The HBPA Convention's mission is to provide insight, information and a variety of perspectives to keep our horsemen up to date in a rapidly-changing world, to let our membership and their HBPA representatives know how owners and trainers are impacted by regulatory changes, technology advances and business trends and how they might better their operations and our sport,” said Eric Hamelback, the National HBPA's chief executive officer. “As our motto says, we are 'horsemen helping horsemen,' while also providing ways for horsemen to help themselves and be leaders into the future.”
“The 2018 HBPA Convention will feature luminaries in such areas as equine law, drug testing, workers' compensation, workforce issues and marketing. Our discussions promise to be informative and engaging,” said National HBPA president Leroy Gessmann. “Mr. Clay Whitham — horseman, businessman and banker — is the perfect keynote speaker, combining his family's love, passion and perseverance in the sport with understanding of the challenges we all face.”
In addition to industry experts, the convention panelists include outside authorities bringing valuable insight into horse racing. Among them:
- Greg Bensel, senior vice president for communications for the Tom Benson-owned NFL New Orleans Saints and NBA Pelicans, as well as general manager of Tom and Gayle Benson's GMB Racing.
- Joe Asher, CEO of the U.S. operation for the prominent British bookmaking concern William Hill. Asher joins the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Alex Waldrop and Michele Fischer of Sportech to discuss new challenges horse racing may face with the likelihood of sports-betting expansion.
- Ted Shults, an international drug-test expert with background as an attorney and research toxicologist and who has worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of the Army and as corporate counsel and director of legal affairs for CompuChem Laboratories, which works with the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal and state agencies.
- Dr. Scott Stanley, principal chemist at the University of California-Davis' Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory that handles California's horse-racing testing and who has worked nationally and internationally in the fields of equine pharmacology, analytical chemistry and anti-doping detection.
- Dr. Emily Weiss, who oversees the strategic direction of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Equine Welfare program.
These and other speakers will highlight panels and presentations. Additionally, the NHBPA will honor the life of longtime horseman and NHBPA leader Kent Stirling, as well as Nebraska horseman Bob Lee with formal resolutions.
The National HBPA Claiming Horse of the Year also will be recognized with a presentation to the owners of Mended, Mr. and Mrs. Troy Onorato. The Northern California-based Mended, now 5, was claimed Jan. 6, 2017, for $12,500. She lost that day but went 10 for 10 the rest of the year for the Onoratos and trainer John F. Martin, capped by the $110,000 Claiming Crown Glass Slipper at Gulfstream Park.
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