11/08/2002 12:00AM

Hopes spring anew for racing

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Tuesday's election could have a profound impact on the state of Georgia's Thoroughbred industry.

Bill Russell, executive director of the Georgia Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, said he's not sure where Republican governor-elect Sonny Perdue stands on the racing industry. But Russell speculates that the new governor may see parimutuel betting, which is not legal in Georgia, as a way to close a budget shortfall. With neighboring states Tennessee and South Carolina having approved state lotteries, people from those states no longer will have to come to Georgia to buy lottery tickets, and that is likely to create a shortfall in college scholarship funding from the lottery.

"The new legislature will be, I think, more inclined to go along with parimutuels as a substitute for the lottery shortfall," Russell said. "I and my colleagues are more optimistic about Thoroughbred racing coming to Georgia than ever before."

Georgia has a small, static Thoroughbred breeding program. About 350 mares, according to Russell, stand in the state. That would change if parimutuel wagering were allowed in the state, Russell said.

"There's no incentive, so some of our major breeders, like J. Mack Robinson, ship their mares to Kentucky to foal and breed," he said. "Others send their mares to Florida for the same purpose. For those who stay home, there's a choice of roughly 15 stallions. Slew the Slewor, who used to stand at Irish Acres Farm in Ocala, is currently our leading sire. If we could get parimutuel racing to generate breeders' and owners' awards, I think you'd see a big change in the stallion situation, and quickly."

Expanding the stakes program

Each year the GTOBA solicits stallion seasons from a wide array of states. These seasons are auctioned off in January and provide funds for operational needs, charities, and to fund a series of stakes races at Gulfstream, Calder Race Course, and Tampa Bay Downs. The next auction is on Jan. 4, 2003.

In 2002 about $300,000 was earmarked for stakes at the Florida tracks for the get of stallions whose seasons were donated to a GTOBA auction.

"The GTOBA wants to extend the stakes program to include Kentucky, and to this end we have been talking to several racetracks there," Russell said. "It's our way of telling those Kentucky stallion managers and owners that we Georgians really appreciate their working with us."

Lukas to speak at banquet

The GTOBA will hold its annual awards banquet at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel in Atlanta on Nov. 23. D. Wayne Lukas will be the featured speaker.

According to Russell, the honorees include Robinson, breeder of the year, and Jack and Laurie Wolf, owners of the year. The Wolfs, who are Georgia residents, race under the banner of Starlight Stable and own Harlan's Holiday, who won the Grade 1 Florida Derby, Grade 1 Blue Grass, and Grade 3 Pennsylvania Derby this year.

Tickets are $100 and may be obtained by phoning Rita Glosson at (770) 475-0470.