This letter is written to respond to a post written by Mr. Bob Hutton, President of the AZHBPA that appeared on Facebook on August 15. This letter is written to clarify some of the statements and impressions in Mr. Hutton’s letter. In other words, to set the record straight.
Mr. Simms has owned Turf for 20 years; 19 of those 20 years race meets were successfully conducted, from beginning to end. It’s only this year, specifically when Governor Ducey declared a state of emergency on March 11 because of the Coronavirus that a race meet has been cut short. The Coronavirus is the only reason Turf cut short its race meet on March 14 and the only reason Turf withdrew its request before the Arizona Racing Commission on August 13 to run a race meet from Nov. 1 to May 1, 2021. Turf does not want the liability of running a race meet while the Coronavirus is active.
Settlement Agreement (Attachment 1) The Settlement Agreement was written by Mr. Casillas, Director of the Arizona Division of Racing, who also served as the mediator for Mr. Simms and Mr. Hutton as the two men compromised, negotiated and eventually signed the agreement in good faith on March 22. Either side could have argued specific points of the agreement or declined to sign the agreement. But both sides agreed to sign. Read Attachment 1 for the complete terms of the agreement.
In his posting Mr. Hutton gives the impression that the Settlement Agreement, which by definition is to settle differences between parties, was somehow arrived at without the consent of both parties. On the contrary, both Mr. Simms and Mr. Hutton signed the 14 point agreement. For example, the parties agreed to split the costs < 50‐50 > of maintaining the backside and training on the man track for 45 days. The AZHBPA was invoiced weekly and the invoices were promptly paid. When the 45 days expired the AZHBPA asked for an additional 10 days, at their own expense, and the request was granted.
It appears that Mr. Hutton’s personal feelings toward Mr. Simms and Turf are clouding his judgement. The HBPA is to be neutral, treating all tracks equally, but Turf is treated differently. When Arziona Downs abbreviated their race meet they continued to simulcast without racing live. When that track announced that it would not be able to conduct a meet because of Yavapai County and the City of Prescott Valley’s concerns about the Coronavirus, Arizona Downs, without objection from the AZHBPA, maintained their simulcasting and OTB system. Why not the same for Turf?
Arizona Downs Letter (Attachment 2) On May 22 Turf became aware of a letter from Mr. Dave Auther of Arizona Downs to Mr. Casillas. Specifically what caught our attention in the letter was the following that revealed how Arizona Downs was going to fund its purses: “This will include a contribution from the HBPA toward purses. HBPA has a plan to secure purse money from the Turf Paradise purse fund.” You cannot use the purse money of one race track to subsidize the purses of another track.
Mr. Hutton stated that without live racing there would be no simulcasting. Turf’s contract with the AZHBPA goes until May 2021. Turf expects the AZHBPA to honor that contract.
At a meeting in early August with Mr. Hutton and two members of the Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association in my office at Turf, Mr. Hutton asked me if I believed a contract existed between Turf and the AZHBPA. I replied in the affirmative that I believed a contract existed between us. Mr. Hutton then asked Mr. Simms (who was participating by phone) the same question. Mr. Simms answered that he not only believed a contract existed but that it was in effect until May 2021. Mr. Hutton responded that he did not believe a contract existed because we cancelled the race meet due to the Coronavirus, thus rendering the contract void. Mr. Simms then asked Mr. Hutton that if he really believed that, then why are we having a discussion about contractual matters. Mr. Simms then said, “Let’s continue to talk.” Mr. Hutton then stood up abruptly and said “We’re done,” and left my office.
The abrupt ending of the meeting notwithstanding, Turf has never declined a phone call, an email/ text or a request to meet with the AZHPBA. That door is still open.
See pdf document above for the rest of the attachement.