12/30/2005 1:00AM

Still fighting for parimutuel racing


Georgia is an overall red state with pockets of blue. The majority of those who live in the red zones are not proponents of parimutuel horse racing. Those living in the bluish cities of Atlanta and Savannah would likely vote for Thoroughbred racing if given a chance, said Bob Mier, member of the board of governors of the Georgia Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. The problem is, Mier said, that former Governor Zell Miller made horse racing a constitutional issue requiring three-quarter approval of the Georgia legislature and a subsequent super-majority of two-thirds of the electorate.

The Georgia breeders group does not have an accurate census of stallions and mares. It's something that needs to be done, said Mier. The leading stallion in the state is the late Storm Cat sire Level Sands with seven foals in his 2005 crop. His 23 get racing earned close to $1 million in '05.

While waiting for the legislative turnaround in Georgia, the Georgia breeders have struck numerous alliances. These alliances serve as fund-raisers for the Georgia breeders and as marketing tools. The chief fund-raiser is the annual auction of Thoroughbred seasons, which will take place at the Atlanta National Golf Club on Saturday. At last count, 89 stallions representing 15 states will have '06 breeding seasons auctioned. These include 56 stallions standing in Florida, 21 stallions in Kentucky, and 12 who reside in New York.

The Georgia breeders have an agreement with Calder Race Course to sponsor four stakes each year for get of those stallions who are nominated to a Georgia Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association auction. The Georgia breeders have partnered with Stonewell Farm of Kentucky in sponsoring the $75,000 Stonewell Georgia Oaks, which will be run next summer. The other three stakes, all endowed with $50,000 or more, are the Georgia Debutante Stakes set for early next summer, the Georgia Dash around Labor Day, and the Georgia Peaches Stakes at the Tropical at Calder meet.

Those who want to bid on the seasons can do so in several ways. You can bid via the Internet at www.gtoba.com, or by phone at (866) 664-8622 before 7 p.m. on Jan. 7. Bill Russell is the auction coordinator, and he can be reached at (404) 886-6740.

Mier acknowledges all the help and well-wishes from compatriots in other Thoroughbred communities, and he is sanguine that Georgians will favor a Thoroughbred industry with parimutuel facilities in the not far-off future.

"A year ago we began a recruitment drive to swell the ranks of the GTOBA," he said. "We had 300 members when we started the drive. We have over 3,000 members now, and by next year our membership will double or triple."

Mier thinks changes in Georgia's demographics are spurring changes in state residents' attitudes toward racing.

"Florida has undergone tremendous social and political changes, as people from all over becoming residents," he said. "That's what's happening in Georgia as well."

The newcomers, according to Mier, are not bringing anti-racing baggage with them. On the contrary, he said, more and more are coming from communities that have or were near racetracks.

"Their attitude tends to be live and let live, and when we get enough of them, it will make all the difference for Georgia's Thoroughbred industry," he said.