WHAT DO WE DO? Somebody asked me on Saturday at Colonial Downs what the VTA does and specifically what the folks who work for the VTA do day-in and day-out. It dawned on me that unless you hang around the VTA office for an average week that would be hard to know. The VTA has two full-time employees and two part-time employees and a fair number of moving parts.

Simply put the VTA’s mission is to promote Thoroughbred breeding here in the Commonwealth. As one of the primary “stakeholders” in the Virginia racing and breeding industry, our primary focus continues to be on generating more revenue for the Breeders Fund and the purse account at Colonial Downs so breeding and racing here makes some economic sense. We try to keep our members, the media, the government informed about what is happening in our industry and why it is important. The political process is time-consuming and frustrating as our victories are small and painstakingly hard to accomplish.

We also promote and administer the Virginia Breeders Fund, and a great deal of our time and effort is spent marching up that very steep hill. The economic realities of breeding in Virginia as opposed to any of our neighboring state is daunting, to say the least. However, we try to promote the industry and our horses with the limited resources we have.

Speaking of resources – like everybody else that remains a very big issue. Unlike many breeders’ organizations in other racing states, the VTA is not funded by the racing industry or the state government. While we do receive up to $95,000 a year to administer the Breeders Fund, the balance of our overall budget of around $450,000 a year is raised by the organization and its members. A big chunk of that comes via the VTA Stallion Auction which this year declined a whopping $70,000 which leaves a rather gaping hole in our budget.

So what do we do? Obviously, we have renegotiated every contract that can be renegotiated and we are constantly looking for ways to save money. Unfortunately, services suffer – our awards presentations at Colonial Downs on Saturday are a perfect example. Once a major production with a price tag well in excess of $10,000 (including Horse of the Year ball caps and outside advertising of the winners, etc), this year we still presented the winners on the Colonial Downs televisions between races on the Turf Cup card, but everything else was trimmed back due to severe economic restrictions.

Annually, we host the Virginia Equine Forum which brings all the leadership from the other horse groups together to discuss mutual interests. We started this project some four years ago in partnership with the Virginia Horse Council and we have cultivated some key political allies through this project. Also, I sever on the Virginia Horse Industry Board which is a commodities board under the auspices of the Virginia Department of Agriculture which is charged with the overall promotion of the equine industry. Here again, we have managed to do some good things and make new political friends among other equine disciplines.

There is so much more we would like to be doing and so many good ideas about how to promote Virginia and Virginia-breds, but we simply lack the resources to pursue many very good ideas.

We are constantly looking for new and better ways to fund our efforts, and if you have a good idea, please don’t hesitate to call or email me (540-347-4313 or gpetty@vabred.org)

Here’s what each of us does:

MARK DEANE: Mark remains the VTA Field Director while also pursuing several other endeavors. He is paid a stipend and spends very little time here in the office. His role is to be “out and about” interacting with folks and talking up the benefits of the Commonwealth (not necessarily an easy task). If we had more money, we would love to have a guy like Mark who is a tremendous industry advocate on the payroll full-time. Mark and Heather coordinate our advertising in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred among other duties including ram-rodding the Stallion Auction (which is a six month project each year.).

PAT FARAMARZI: Pat (below left) works part-time three days a week. She is responsible for the actual hands on administration of the Breeders Fund. She handles everything from registrations to tracking results to coordinating with the Colonial Downs and racing and horsemen’s bookkeeping offices. It’s Pat who ultimately figure out how much money you won, and, yes, it’s Pat who is always bugging you about that current W9 the Commonwealth is always bugging us about!

HEATHER STANLEY: Heather (right) is the engine that drives the VTA – she pays the bills, runs the office, keeps track of the membership, pays the taxes, does the banking and payroll – all the stuff that any small business needs to keep it going on a daily basis. She manages all of our events including the Yearling Futurity and Virginia Derby Day, and spends an inordinate amount of time on fundraising primarily the Stallion Auction. She works full-time.

When she isn’t doing all of that she’s answering questions for people, mailing things, keeping QuickBook straight, finding that Charles Town condition book for someone, etc. etc. In addition, she always seems to know where Patty, Mark and I are at any given time, and that’s no small feat in itself. Heather also is the administrator for the Virginia Equine Political Action Committee.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Here’s what I know about the VTA staff – they are hard-working dedicated people who thankfully love the industry and their jobs. I don’t think they would be here fighting a difficult battle year-in and year-out if they didn’t believe their efforts would make a difference. In some circles, there seems to be the perception that we are all sitting around the Warrenton office pulling down big pay checks and watching TVG. I can assure you that’s not the case. OK, I do have TVG on during Colonial and Saratoga, but I’m 100% sure the VTA payroll is minuscule compared to similar organizations in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to name a few.

GLENN PETTY: I’m responsible for the whole operation – which would explain some of the flaws! I work with the Board of Directors and the President to determine the direction the organization is headed. I handle our liaison with the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC), Colonial Downs and the Virginia H.B.P.A. I coordinate our activities with the state government whether if be the Governor’s office or the General Assembly. I also represent the VTA at all VRC meetings and related functions that require the presence of the VTA.

I handle all the media and public relations that Heather and Mark don’t do…That means while they focus on the Mid-Atlantic, I try to tackle everything else from the Virginia Thoroughbred Blog, the Monday VTA Insider to national and regional publicity campaigns and media releases for anything related be it year-end Virginia-bred championships or Virginia-bred and/or connected horses endeavoring to win big races.

An example of this is the coverage we have endeavored to get (with mixed results) for horses like Triple Crown contenders Quality Road and Charitable Man. The QR campaign taught me all about Facebook and Twitter, and eventually led to some good articles and commentaries in newspapers statewide about the declines in our industry.

I’m ultimately responsible for the promotion and administration of the Breeders Fund in that “big picture” kind of way, for reporting on all association business to the Board of Directors, and for trying (along with all the other staff members) to figure out how to keep the lights on from day-to-day.

Unfortunately, I don’t get out of this office enough. Last summer I spent a great deal of time on the road, but I wasn’t visiting VTA members or horse farms, but members of the Virginia General Assembly.

My primary goal for the past five years has been to increase the total handle which, in turn, will increase Breeders Fund revenues, purses and live racing days. Doing that is a political process, a process that I have been fully engaged in along with the other industry stakeholders and their lobbyists. The political process isn’t very exciting, but since we are state regulated somebody (and that somebody looks like me) has to stay immersed in the process along with our friends at the VHBPA. I’ve also spent a great deal of time and energy getting the Breeders Fund a share of ADW wagers.

Not a week goes by that we don’t examine what we do and how we do it with our focus being on how to do it better. Almost every conversation ends in the same way… “if we only had more money, we could (fill in the blank).” It’s frustrating, but everyone is engaged and constantly looking for good solutions to the industry’s problems.

On many days, I wish I had a twin that could travel around the state and see more farms and members and get more input face-to-face, and this summer I plan to do more of that. On other days, I wish that twin could do some little-picture administrative work (like filing VEPAC reports with the State Board of Elections) so I could focus on big-picture issues like more OTBs, more handle, more Breeders Fund dollars, more members services – and the list goes on and on…

In the meantime, my electronic office door (and my real office door) are always open. We are all interested in your input, and please know that your membership and your hard-earned money (your dues) are being spent daily in an effort to improve our industry and increase your bottom line.

Soon, the Nominating Committee will be forming a new Board of Directors. It’s not that we don’t have a qualified and motivated group of directors now, it’s just that over time the folks who work the hardest get burned out after awhile. Also, while the organization is primarily “staff driven” it may well be too staff driven and in need of some new energy from the board room.

When the new board is formed, we hope to jump start our membership recruitment and our seminar program (which has lapsed for a variety of reasons). We also will be examining some other new projects you will hear about in the near future.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact any of us.

P.S. We also grow hot peppers (and the occasional ear of corn) every year in the little garden in front of the VTA office. Feel free to pick some anytime. The Jalapeno plant is already bearing fruit and hopefully the rather anemic looking Habenero will perk up when it gets good and hot.