OCALA, FL—The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association announced today that the honorable Florida State House of Representatives’ Stan McClain (R-Ocala) will be honored with the inaugural Matt Bryan Distinguished Advocacy Award Monday at the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owner’ Association Gala.

McClain’s leadership, including the last two sessions as House Tax and Finance Chair, was integral to one of the most significant legislative wins in Florida and U.S. Thoroughbred history. In 2023 House Bill 7063 established an all-time most lucrative two-year incentive program for Florida Thoroughbreds. In 2024, McClain co-led HB 7073, extending the incentives package allocating $33 million annually for Florida breeding and racing incentives. 

“We were excited to be able to expand Florida’s investment supporting the Florida Thoroughbred industry on a long-term basis,” McClain said. “I’m looking forward to watching how this investment helps the industry thrive in upcoming years. It takes a team to accomplish such a monumental achievement. This would not have happened without the hard work and dedication from Matt Bryan, Jon Rees, and Lonny Powell. It was my honor to serve as the bill sponsor and Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. I look forward to supporting the Thoroughbred industry in Tallahassee in the years to come.” 

Rep. McClain is the first honoree of the Matt Bryan Distinguished Advocacy Award named in honor of Matt Bryan, FTBOA’s 30-year veteran lobbyist. 

“I have been fortunate for my entire 12-plus years with the FTBOA to get to know and work with Matt and Stan and to call them my friends,” FTBOA CEO Lonny Powell said.

“To honor Stan with this first-ever and tremendously deserved Distinguished Advocacy Award was something I have had in mind since the 2023 industry economic support legislation in which he played a major role. Stan championed that legislation without knowing there would be an even more substantial, positive Thoroughbred industry impact from which we recently benefited this year. Our Industry is in deep gratitude for his leadership and support.

“It is only fitting that this inaugural award being presented to Stan is named after the FTBOA’s superstar lobbyist and one of my closest advisors Matt Bryan. Matt has served the FTBOA in Herculean fashion through several decades. In my opinion, we were one of the best political coach/quarterback combos on the Tallahassee political field. Our Association and industry are forever indebted to Matt for his unequaled and tireless work and dedication.”

Lobbyist Matt Bryan to be Honored at Awards Gala for Service 

For three decades, Matt Bryan has been instrumental in numerous key legislative successes for the Florida Thoroughbred industry. His tenure navigated rapid industry change throughout the 1990s, forever altering the state landscape for Thoroughbred breeding, sales and racing.

Starting in 1996, legislation reduced tax on simulcast wagers, a $2.5 million stimulus to race purses. That same year legislation enabled full-card simulcasting plus a return of the Breeders’ Cup races to Florida. At that time, it was estimated that full-card simulcasting added $5.5 million to purses and a three percent boost to breeder awards, about $1.1 million. Accumulated benefits since that inaugural season and extending to current broad-spread programming are without a doubt, priceless.

Cardrooms legislation in 1996 optioned card gaming parallel to live racing, or evening simulcasts after 7 p.m. One-half of cardroom proceeds divided 47% to purses and 3% to breeder awards.

In 1998, Bryan teamed with the FTBOA president at the time, the late Stanley Ersoff, to champion legislated medication reporting policies for Thoroughbred auctions and authorizing a zero tax on racetrack free admission days. Going further, 1998 eliminated a 10 p.m. curfew on Thoroughbred simulcasting plus Florida-based stallions undertaking double-duty in the Southern hemisphere may remain eligible for stallion owner awards. That same year the Florida owners’ awards sunset provision was removed. 

The last decades have emphasized uniform medication regulation and featured repeated beat-backs of the industry’s most existential threat – insidious legislative attempts at decoupling racetracks from their state authorized gaming businesses.

Bryan capped off his career in 2023 and 2024 working closely with FTBOA CEO Lonny Powell and Warren Husband, FTBOA legal counsel, to secure a $33 million annual state breeding and racing incentives package (HB 7073), thanks to Rep. McClain’s support.

Bryan will be retiring from lobbying duties at Smith, Bryan and Myers in Tallahassee at the end of 2024. 

The Matt Bryan Distinguished Advocacy Award celebrates external leaders (non-FTBOA members) bringing major positive impacts to the Florida Thoroughbred industry through substantial legislative or industry advocacy efforts.

Return to the April 12 issue of Wire to Wire