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Monday, August 10, 2015

National HBPA Elects Gessmann as President

Leroy Gessmann
The National HBPA Board of Directors elected Leroy Gessmann as president of North America’s largest horsemen’s association during the NHBPA’s Summer Convention held Aug. 6-9 in Denver. Gessmann is president of the Iowa HBPA and most recently served as First Vice President and Central Region Vice President for the National HBPA. Gessmann takes over for Robin Richards after she served a three-year term.

Gessmann, who owns and operates several family-style restaurants in Iowa, raced Sure Shot Biscuit, the all-time leading Iowa-bred money earner and only millionaire with a bankroll of $1,025,480. Gessmann also owned graded stakes winner Miss Macy Sue, who finished third in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

“I thank the board for their faith in me and will do everything I can to keep this organization going in the right direction,” said Gessmann.

The board also elected regional vice presidents for the association: Tom Metzen Sr., president of the Minnesota HBPA, will serve as Central Region Vice President and First Vice President; Past President Robin Richards, who is on the board of the Virginia HBPA, will serve as Eastern Region Vice President; Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky HBPA, will serve another term as Southern Region Vice President; and J. Lloyd Yother, president of the Arizona HBPA, will serve as Western Region Vice President.

In addition to the elections, the Summer Convention featured NHBPA committee meetings and forums for horsemen to discuss important topics in the industry.

“I am very pleased with the outcome of our National HBPA Summer Convention” said Eric Hamelback, who presided over his first convention as CEO of the National HBPA. “This convention gave our members a great mixture of organizational business and educational forums. The overall feeling of our members was that of positive energy and re-energized vigor. As horsemen, owners and trainers who pursue our profession in the racing industry, we understand that it is up to us to spread the message of the majority, and that message is filled with positive and factual information that needs to be heard. It will be up to the National HBPA to ensure the message of our affiliates and members is heard.”

In the Legislative Affairs Forum, the panel pointed out several issues with the recently introduced Barr/Tonko Bill H.R. 3084, known as the “Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015.” The bill calls for the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to take over equine drug testing from state racing commissions.

Panelists pointed out USADA’s lack of experience with equine drug testing, especially that USADA did not do the testing for equine athletes during the Olympics, and raised questions about how the testing would be paid for.

In the Medication Forum, panelists discussed the past, present and future of equine drug testing. Dr. Steven Barker of Louisiana State University mentioned how drug testing methods have become so advanced that “positives” are being called for tests that find trace levels of a substance that could not possibly affect performance and most likely was caused by environmental contamination.

“In fact, many (tests exceeding) current threshold levels could just as easily be caused by or exceeded by environmental contamination,” he said. “Our ability to test has exceeded what was intended by the laws. There is no pharmacological effect to these small levels.”

Linda Gaston, president of the Arkansas HBPA, was bestowed the National HBPA’s Industry Service Award, becoming the first woman to ever been so honored since the award began in 1999. Gaston was recognized for her dedication to helping horsemen both in her home state and across North America.

The Board also presented a resolution to outgoing Western Region Vice President and Washington HBPA President Ron Maus, thanking him for his years of service, particularly in the areas of financial planning and budgeting for the National HBPA.

The National HBPA will hold its Winter Convention in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

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