Posted: Oct. 17, 2016
Scott Peck has a long history of service to the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, having been a member of the board of directors for 10 years and president for six years. After several years away from DTHA management, he’s back in the top spot.
Peck, who continues to train a small stable of horses at Delaware Park, was recently elected president for 2016-19.
“Several horsemen and board members asked if I would run,” Peck said. “I felt an obligation to some of these people who I’ve known for 30 years.”
Peck in the early1990s was actively involved in the push for racetrack slot machines at the three Delaware tracks, two of which offer harness racing. Gaming came to the tracks in 1996 and purses increased steadily for about 10 years until neighboring Pennsylvania and Maryland authorized casino gambling.
Average daily purses at Delaware Park peaked at about $284,000 in 2005 for a 139-day race meet. Nine years later, the average was about $183,000 per day for 80 days of racing.
Peck said one of the challenges for horsemen, at least legislatively, is restoration of about $2.5 million to $3 million taken by the state to fund government given declining revenue. The racetrack casinos for years have lobbied for tax breaks they say are needed to make them more competitive in the congested gaming marketplace.
“We had good friends who wrote and passed the legislation but they are retired and gone,” Peck said. “So we have new people we have to tell the story to; it’s really a never-ending fight.”
Peck said legislative advocacy will be a major part of his new term as DTHA president.
“(Lawmakers) start to think a little bit differently (when you educate them about the racing industry),” Peck said. “If we don’t have legislative support, we don’t have support, period. Nobody realizes how much time and money we need to spend on this.
“It seems to pay off in the long run. We have to keep them thinking about how many jobs and how much revenue comes to the state.”
The DTHA and Delaware Park agreed, as part of three-year contract that was extended by one year through 2017, to offer 81 days of racing each year. Horsemen believe that’s the minimum needed to keep racing stables coming back each year.
Peck said the DTHA is proud of multiple programs it launched over the past two decades, including the Delaware Certified Program, which offers purse bonuses to horses that were domiciled at Delaware farms for at least nine months up to March 31 of their 2-year-old year. The program was designed to support agriculture and offer an incentive for horses to race at Delaware Park.
Workers’ compensation and retirement programs, however, were discontinued as the racing and training landscape changed.
“It’s a hell of a challenge here,” Peck said. “The problem with horsemen everywhere is that we don’t own (the racetracks). When you don’t own the place there’s not a whole lot you can accomplish if people don’t have the same vision on how to grow the sport and keep it going.”
Other board members for 2016-19 are trainers Lou Albertrani, Gary Katz, Keith Nations, Anthony Pecoraro and Tim Ritchey, and owners Shanon Epley, Herb Moelis, Tracy Porter Nunley, Janet Ritchey and Paul Trapani. The board will meet Oct. 18 to elect officers.