The horsepower of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association was on full display this winter and spring in Tallahassee, producing what may be the Florida industry’s biggest legislative win ever. While the bill in question, which contains numerous tax provisions, must still go to Governor DeSantis for his approval, the $55 million committed by the state over two years for purses and Florida-Bred incentives, plus state tax breaks to cover HISA regulatory costs, once again confirm FTBOA’s wire-to-wire, front-runner, stay-the-distance pedigree.

But make no mistake, this landmark win was not just a lucky break. It was the product of literally years of groundwork laid by the FTBOA in countless meetings with legislators and staffers to educate them about the importance of the Florida Thoroughbred industry and its internal dynamics. Without the sustained and consistent investment of time, energy, and resources by the FTBOA, we would now likely be picking through the ruins of a “decoupled” racing environment, just like our Standardbred and Quarter Horse friends, and this remarkable 2023 legislation never would have crossed the finish line.

As President, I am so proud of Team FTBOA, as led by CEO Lonny Powell and our veteran lobbyist Matt Bryan, and I am so grateful to our local state Representative Stan McClain, the House Ways and Means Chairman, who together led the charge in Tallahassee to deliver this much-needed stimulus to the Florida racing and breeding industry at such a critical time. These three gentlemen deserve the thanks of all industry stakeholders and players. Having launched this initiative with Rep. McClain months ago, I am pleased that our industry colleagues came together and worked with us for the betterment of the Florida Thoroughbred industry. It was a difficult birthing process, but, in the end, it’s quite simple – together we stand, divided we fall.

As part of this initiative, legislators wanted us to enter into agreements in advance for the Florida-Bred racing programs at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs for 2024 and 2025. Though we were up against some tight deadlines, we managed to negotiate those agreements efficiently, if not always easily. The resulting agreements signaled the industry’s solidarity to our legislative champions in Tallahassee and locked in the most robust Florida-Bred purse incentives ever seen in Florida racing.

Florida law provides that a percentage of awards funds may be directed to purse and purse supplements for Florida-Breds pursuant to three-way (tri-party) agreements entered into by the FTBOA, the racetrack, and their respective horsemen’s association. The most recent tri-party agreement with Tampa Bay Downs and the Tampa Bay HBPA paid out over $1 million in Florida-Bred stakes race purse incentives through the end of the Tampa Bay spring race meet that ended May 6. Our 2023 tri-party agreement with Gulfstream Park and the FTHA, finalized this past February, affirmed a $1.2 million Florida Sire Stakes series and continued the $100,000 in two-year-old win bonuses for Florida-sired maidens, plus allotted $450,000 in Florida-Bred two-year-old maiden-winner incentives.

The new legislation has given rise to a record $3.3 million Florida-Bred racing program at Gulfstream Park for 2024 and 2025, adding almost 90% to the prior $1.75 million program, which will be distributed across three components. First, it’s an honor to report that our beloved Florida Sire Stakes two-year-old races will remain in force through 2025. Topping off the prize for eligible Florida-sired two-year-olds, the longstanding maiden special weight win bonuses will increase to a $300,000 program (historically $100,000), ensuring that these deserving maiden-breakers have the full calendar year to earn their share. Nearly half of the 2024 and 2025 Gulfstream Park purse incentives are earmarked for the best of our Florida-sired runners. Finally, the Florida-Bred Incentive Fund (FBIF) expands to an unprecedented $1.8 million (up from $450,000 in 2023) in purse supplements for Florida-Breds in unrestricted races. Complete details on the FBIF program will be finalized later.

At Tampa Bay Downs, the Florida-Bred racing program expands to $1.56 million, a 47% increase from the prior year’s program. The historical $660,000 Florida Cup races and the additional $400,000 in stakes purse incentives all continue as-is. The added $500,000 windfall will be devoted to a first-time ever FBIF program at Tampa Bay Downs to incentivize Florida-Breds in unrestricted races. Details of that program will be announced later this year.

The funds added to the Florida-Bred racing programs at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs, totaling $4.86 million in 2024 and 2025, will obviously enhance both stability and profitability – a bright time to breed and race in Florida!