The following candidates will be on our ballot:
- Michael Horning
- Larry Johnson
- Harry Kassap
The following candidates will likely appear on our ballot:
- Linda Gaudet
- Katy Voss
- JoAnn Hayden
- Brent Johnson
- Mark Lapidus
- Bob Manfuso
- Ferris Allen
- Phil Schoenthal
Others under consideration: Damon Dilodovico, Graham Motion, Mike Trombetta, Rob Bailes, Chris Bricker, Tim Keefe.[/boxify]
You’d think, after a busy last three years, that the ongoing Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA) board of directors election would be a sleepy affair.
After all, since the last election, in 2011, the organization has seen important change both internal and external.
Externally, the organization has negoatiated a 10-year agreement, with racetrack owners the Maryland Jockey Club, to govern racing in the state. It has endorsed the uniform medication rules promoted by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and helped shepherd them through to passage.
It has helped to oversee the arrival of slots money into the purse account, leading to unprecedented purses here. It has revised claiming rules and, with the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, reached an agreement to help the state’s breeding industry get back on its feet.
And there’s been no shortage of internal change. A fight over the bylaws threatened to consume the entire organization, with some horsemen openly considering the possibility of a new organization. The MTHA’s executive secretary and president — both of whom had filled those roles virtually since the organization’s inception — stepped down in 2012, with the president, Richard Hoffberger, remaining on the board (and among those seeking re-election to it this time).
For all that change — welcome to some, bracing to others — it is equally clear that many members of the organization believe that much more change is necessary. As firebrand board member R. Larry Johnson wrote in a recent letter to members, “[T]here still remains a level of secrecy, of self-interest and lack of proper governance.”
And, indeed, several of the new candidates for the board cited organizational and governance issues — including transparency, the decentralization of power, and cooperation with other racing stakeholders — as paramount. What’s more, while trainers generally appear relatively satisfied with the MTHA, a number of owners commented in interviews that they did not feel adequately represented by the organization.
Going forward, while many issues will matter, we believe that two are critical: externally, the organization needs to continue to work with other racing stakeholders to ensure implementation of the 10-year agreement and to continue to build Maryland racing back to its former prominence, in part by protecting the industry’s share of slots revenue; and internally, the organization needs to make dramatic changes to encourage greater member participation in, and confidence with, the organization. Those changes should include, for starters, a top-to-bottom review and rewrite of the bylaws, staggered board terms, term limits, much enhanced member communications, and the return of open meetings.
In short, the next board will have a full plate of work in front of it.
As MTHA members review their ballots this year, they’ll find both a full slate of board members running for re-election and an impressive array of “new shooters,” 29 candidates in all.
As we review our ballot, we will give special emphasis to organizational issues. Any organization’s effectiveness ultimately is tied to the confidence its members place in it, and if the events of the last two years tell us anything, it is that many members have felt disconnected, even disenfranchised, from their horsemen’s group. That needs to change, and that change will require board members willing to change old ways of doing business.
Two members of the current board of directors have consistently stood for greater openness and transparency over the last term — and, at first, were willing to risk losing 13-2 votes to make their points. Michael Horning and R. Larry Johnson have led efforts to reform the way the MTHA does business and deserve to be re-elected to new terms on the board.
One of the new shooters has also been a consistent and outspoken voice for greater transparency within the MTHA and specifically mentioned in an interview his willingness to lose votes 14-1 if he were standing for those goals. Moreover, he correctly believes that good internal governance will help us make the case to retain slots funds going forward. Harry Kassap will be on our ballot.
Of the current board, several other members have come to support member-friendly changes in the organization and have sought to promote what racing commissioner John McDaniel refers to as “peace in the valley.” Of these, two likely to appear on our ballot will be Linda Gaudet and Katy Voss. Others to whom we’ll give a look include Robbie Bailes, Chris Bricker, and Tim Keefe.
The list of new shooters is particularly impressive and includes some of the state’s best-known trainers and most accomplished owners.
Among the owners, we will give strong consideration to Mark Lapidus, JoAnn Hayden, Brent Johnson, and Bob Manfuso. All strike us as experienced and astute members of the racing community with a variety of experiences and approaches.
Among the new trainers, we will certainly consider Ferris Allen and Phil Schoenthal. Allen, a former board member, and Schoenthal, defeated in two recent cycles, possess both training experience and business acumen, giving them a helpful breadth of vision. Other new trainers worthy of consideration include Mike Trombetta and Graham Motion, two of the state’s top trainers and two who would provide a Fair Hill voice; and Laurel-based Damon Dilodovico.
Finally, we do urge all members of the MTHA, whether you agree with these selections or not, to fill out and return your ballots. Your voice, and your vote, matter.
Disclosure: Current MTHA board member R. Larry Johnson advertises his stallion, Street Magician, on The Racing Biz.