The recognition of a new horseman’s group at Hialeah Park by the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering is being challenged and a trial is set to begin today in a Tallahassee courtroom. Those in the know regarding horseman’s issues in Florida say that the trial could have far-reaching implications.

The group replacing the American Quarter Horse Association (Racing) (AQHA), which has represented horsemen since 2010, was created by the management of Hialeah and a racing application has been submitted by Hialeah listing the new horseman’s group. The Division has recognized the newly created horseman’s group and while it has yet to be assembled, has issued Hialeah its 2017 racing permit. The original six-year purse agreement between AQHA and Hialeah expired last year.

The president of the Florida Horsemen’s Protective and Benevolent Association, William P. White, says that the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering is not willing to serve as a referee in determining the legitimacy of the new group and whether or not it constitutes a new majority, according to Sunshine State News. White, who is scheduled to testify before Administrative Law Judge Lawrence P. Stevenson at the trial today, claims that the Division is evolving into a regulating body that does not arbitrate/referee. White said , “With no racing commission, there is no governmental body to appeal to other than the courts,” and, “So every time we bring some sort of issue to the Division, they say, ‘oh, it’s not for us to decide,’ we’ll get the courts to do it,” according to the news agency.

However, some say that the issue shouldn’t have to be arbitrated. They say that “signed cards” are supposed to be on file indicating that a member has made a choice to affiliate with that group. Instead, they say, the Division has simply decided to look the other way, according to the news agency.

Thoroughbreds and other breed races are allowed under a Quarter Horse permit so long as Quarter Horses comprise half the races. The speculation is that the new group is an attempt by Hialeah to legitimize a bogus group, which would be accepted at face value by the Division for the purpose of being issued a permit. Hialeah benefits from the move by enabling it to run an abbreviated racing schedule next summer, as well as reducing or cutting slot revenue to purses due to the fact that they can negotiate with the group that they themselves created. White said, “In essence, Hialeah can fill out a purse contract any way they want and they are now, in all practicality, decoupled without legislation,” adding, “I believe the danger to us is Calder. When the tri-party agreement expires in four years, Churchill Downs again takes over the running of Calder,” he said. “Churchill could try to do something similar to what Hialeah is doing.”

White’s testimony will involve the requirement by law that a legitimate horsemen’s group represents the trainers and owners, according to the news agency.