Wednesday, February 17, 2016
President of Standardbred group takes top job with Thoroughbreds
McCaffrey vows to continue to fight for Illinois Horsemen
HINSDALE, Illinois – The Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association today announced that Board President Dave McCaffrey is stepping down from his position on the board and closing up his stable to take a new job as the Executive Director of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
“This is an opportunity for me to stay in Illinois and still fight for horsemen,” said McCaffrey. “The partnership between the ITHA and the IHHA is groundbreaking in the horse industry and rock solid. Without knowing that, I would not leave.”
Over the last few years, the IHHA and ITHA have worked lockstep on many issues including the passage of important gaming bills.
“Thoroughbred horsemen are very excited to have Dave come on board to work in a leadership role as Executive Director,” said ITHA Board President Mike Campbell. “Dave’s depth and breadth of knowledge and experience will only help to strengthen the horse racing industry as a whole. The partnership that has been formed between Thoroughbred and Standardbred horsemen is now stronger than ever. This is not one breed against another; our industry is much stronger when all horsemen pull together.”
McCaffrey was elected to the IHHA Board of directors almost 20 years ago and has been the President of the board since 2008. During that time, he continued to train Standardbred horses capturing several awards including seven training titles at Maywood Park. In 2015 McCaffrey was inducted into the Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
During McCaffrey’s tenure, he saw the successful passage of two gaming bills that would have arrested the decline of the sport and helped place the industry on solid footing. Those bills were unfortunately vetoed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. The IHHA and ITHA have vowed to continue the fight for a gaming bill that will fund Illinois horseracing and breeding programs. Horse racing and breeding in the Prairie State contribute millions of dollars every year to Illinois economy.
In 2008 McCaffrey was part of a team that helped pass legislation to fund horse racing through a casino impact fee. In 2011 he helped win the release of $141 million collected through that impact fee and owed to the Illinois horse racing industry. He was also able to see the state of Illinois fund recapture for several years and has continued to beat the drum about the deleterious effects of that law.
“Recapture has hobbled horsemen for years,” McCaffrey said about the ill conceived bill that requires horsemen to pay racetracks a fee if track handle dips below a certain level. “However, I’m proud that the IHHA negotiated contracts with Balmoral and Maywood Park that waived a large portion of recapture over the course of five years. That alone allowed harness horsemen to race for an extra $10 million dollars.”
Mike Campbell agrees with McCaffrey that Illinois’ recapture law hurts Thoroughbred and Standardbred horsemen and he vows to work with harness horsemen to address the problem. “We are stronger when trainers, owners and breeders are united,” said Campbell. “A rising tide lifts all boats and recapture is definitely an area where all horsemen need to work together to ensure that the business models of horseman are sustainable and taken into account equal to that of the tracks.”
Board of Directors First Vice President Marty Engel assumes McCaffrey’s post as President. Standardbred owner and Trainer Joe Cassano was runner up in the 2015 board election. He will fill the Board vacancy.
“David has been a phenomenal leader during difficult times,” said Engel. “We will miss him but we are happy to see him move to a position where he can continue his work for the horsemen of Illinois and continue the relationships that he has built over the years.”
Illinois Standardbred and Thoroughbred horse racing have seen declines as the state of Illinois fails to keep the sport competitive with other horse racing states. Indeed, many other states like Indiana and Ohio have seen their programs blossom as Illinois’ industry contracts due to state negligence.
“My frustration with the state of Illinois knows know end,” said McCaffrey “But Illinois horsemen refuse to give up. They are the reason that I work for a solution. Illinois’ horseracing families deserve to live and work in a fair and competitive horse racing state and we will continue to fight the good fight.”