Updated on 09/16/2011 9:26AM

Florida Breeding - Plumley: Change needed


Harold J. Plumley was reelected last Sunday to serve a third term as the president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association. But if seven years ago you had suggested to Plumley that he would become a breeder and owner of Thoroughbreds, he no doubt would have raised his eyebrows, smiled, and said that was unlikely.

Plumley, former head of Plumley Companies, a Tennessee automotive supply manufacturer, and a longtime cattleman, entered the Thoroughbred business in 1995 with Plumley Farms, a Thoroughbred training center. Later he expanded his interests to include breeding and racing, and participating at the sales.

"My wife and I were driving through Ocala, on U.S. 27, and we liked what we saw," said Plumley. "I made some inquiries and found an attractive piece of property for sale. I bought it. Shortly afterward, I was introduced to the Leo Azpurua Sr., and he helped me get started in the horse business."

During this past week's Ocala Breeders' fall mixed sale, Plumley took the time to answer questions about matters concerning the FTBOA.

Question: What is the most important issue facing the Florida Thoroughbred industry?

Plumley: Generating more money for purses, for breeders and stallion awards, and for owner awards. Florida is the second-biggest state in terms of foal production and we are way down on the ladder when it comes to generating industry-needed dollars. We have to do something about this.

How do you expect to accomplish this?

There's a great deal of parimutuel competition in Florida, where in addition to horse racing we have dog tracks and jai-alai frontons, and all around us are casinos in one form or another. The FTBOA signed on to legislation at the last meeting of the Florida Legislature a bill to permit slots and VLT's at existing parimutuel facilities as a means for raising purses. This legislation died because (a) there was too much conflicting parimutuel legislation in the hopper; and (b) the governor let it be known that he would veto any such legislation that came to his desk.

Frankly, I took, and take, exception to the governor's attitude. The governor did not offer any reasons for his position or if there was any leeway. He just said no, period. Anyway, we will have either a new governor next month, or if Gov. Bush is reelected it is possible that he might reconsider, as he will not be eligible for further reelection.

Phone betting needs some serious analysis. Other states are benefiting from account wagering, but the jury is still out. I do not think given the Florida political scene that you can sell slots and VLT's and phone betting in one package.

What's your overview regarding the Florida Million Day and Sunshine Millions?

I think we are buying a great deal of effective marketing. Churchill Downs, through its subsidiary Calder Race Course, is sponsoring Florida Million Day next month and this will spotlight our industry. The Sunshine Millions, the $3.6 million series of eight races for Florida and Cal-breds on Jan. 25, is jointly sponsored by the Florida and California horsemen's groups, the breeders, and by Magna Entertainment Corp. MEC owns all the marketing rights to this and no doubt MEC will be trying to get the backing of a corporate sponsor. Whatever happens, I think this is good marketing for our industry and well worth our contribution.

Frank Stronach sits on the FTBOA board. Is it all peace and quiet?

Frank has his own opinions and his own business plan. Is an omnibus entertainment complex the future of racing? I have a different opinion. I think racing is the entertainment and the amount of your bet is your price of admission.

Do you or the FTBOA have any thoughts regarding the future of Hialeah?

Personally, I have none. I did not go to Hialeah in its glory days. They tell me it's a beautiful park, and I am also told that John J. Brunetti can be a difficult man. Our organization has taken no stance on the Hialeah question. Ideally, a non-profit organization operating all three of the south Florida tracks could be an overall solution. For-profit corporations have to make money for their shareholders. Perhaps, a NYRA-type structure or Del Mar non-profit structure is the way to go in Florida.