11/05/2002 12:00AM

Owner-trainers join TOC board


ALBANY, Calif. - Since the inception of the Thoroughbred Owners of California in 1993, many of the biggest owners in northern California have not been allowed to be part of the organization because they also were trainers.

Passage of Assembly Bill 2619 in late September created a new category of TOC membership for owner-trainers and their wives. Prior to passage of the bill owner-trainers were represented only through the California Thoroughbred Trainers organization.

Under the new legislation, three owner-trainers have been appointed to the TOC board of directors - Art Sherman and Gil Matos from northern California and John Sadler from Southern California. The three will serve until July 1, 2003, with the three spots up for election in the annual TOC elections in June.

TOC president John Van de Kamp said a survey showed that roughly 20 percent of the horses running in California are owned at least in part by their trainer. The rate is near 50 percent in northern California, said CTT northern California director Charlie Dougherty.

Sherman has served on the CTT board for more than 10 years and has long urged the TOC to allow owner-trainers on its board. Sherman, who said he owns 17 horses, said he agreed to serve on the TOC board "to have representation up north."

The TOC regularly negotiates purses with tracks, and cooperates with the CTT in such negotiations. But, Sherman said, owner-trainers have felt somewhat left out of the process.

"There are some issues where trainers need to have more input," Sherman said. "We're out on the front lines."

Matos, a successful businessman before becoming a trainer, said, "It's nice, finally, to get trainers in there. We're here every day. I think it will only help to get a different point of view. I think our input on things such as track conditions and dates will be important."

Van de Kamp admits the previous exclusion of owner-trainers was a "sore point," and called the addition of owner-trainers to the TOC board and granting owner-trainers full voting rights "pretty fair."

"This is a continuum of our improved relationship," he said. "Hopefully, this makes us stronger."

Matos said that he hoped to get the TOC to look at track conditions at all tracks.

"That has to be brought up front and center," he said.

While California trainers are expected to soon be able to buy relatively affordable workers' compensation insurance, Sherman said that issue remains a top priority and added, "There are a lot of things going on where we need to get together."