Splash City Wrist Bands

July 30th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

You must pick up your wrist bands for Splash City this Saturday in the HBPA office from 8:30 until 1. The tickets are only good for Sunday

Splash City Here We Come!

July 24th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Your H.B.P.A. will be treating the horsemen to a day at Splash City on Sunday August 3rd. Please sign up in the H.B.P.A. office.

Face lift and Faceboook

June 27th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

We have updated our website and are proud to announce that we now have our own Facebook page. On the website. you can now click on “Horses” and under ” for adoption” you can see the horses that reside at the Second Chance Ranch at the Vandalia Correctional Facility. All are available for adoption and as you will see have been well taken care of by the inmates. If you or someone you know are looking for a thoroughbred that’s ready for a new career please let us know.

Take some time to check out the horses and our new Facebook page. Enjoy!

Rafael Hernandez

June 19th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks
Hernandez jockeys for position at Fairmount, not in night clubs.

Growing up in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, Rafael Hernandez loved to listen to music and ride horses.

After seeing Hernandez riding a horse around one day, one of his relatives told him he could be a jockey. Hernandez thought he was going to be a disc jockey.

“Oh no. No music,” Hernandez remembered — with a laugh — what the relative had said. “Yeah, I know the disc jockeys. … I don’t even know about the jockeys. No. Jockeys of the racehorses. I said, ‘What the hell is that?’”

Hernandez, who was 16 at the time, said he started researching jockeys on a computer and told his relative that he would ride the horses. But the first time he got on a horse after that, he immediately fell off. The relative then told Hernandez he wasn’t good enough to be a jockey.

That message didn’t sit well with him, so Hernandez went to his mother and told her he wanted to be a jockey.

“She said, ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘That’s a challenge for me,’” Hernandez recalled. “(The relative) told me I wasn’t able to do it. I’m going to show him. And that’s how it started.”

Hernandez, now 29, then went through two years of jockey school in Puerto Rico, where he rode in seven or eight schooling races a day against other students. He also had to breeze or gallop at least 500 horses to get approval.

As well, Hernandez had to weigh no more than 105 pounds to remain in the class. Anything heavier meant dismissal from the program.

Once he successfully completed his obligation and obtained his license, Hernandez was told to fly to Tampa, Fla. to meet his uncle, Herbie Rivera — a former jockey who was an agent at Tampa Bay Downs.

“He told me he was going to help me,” said Hernandez, who never before had been out of his native country. “And the rest is history.”

Hernandez eventually arrived at Fairmount Park in 2004, but he didn’t know anyone in the barn area at the track in Collinsville.

He worked horses in the morning and rode in races during the day or in the evening. He won 57 times from 539 mounts that year and left a lasting impression on Fairmount’s trainers.

He came back to Fairmount in 2005 looking for work and approached trainer Tom Trione, Jr.

“I remembered him from the year before when he was a bug rider (an apprentice who got weight breaks) and I watched him work horses,” Trione said. “He was patient. He set a horse real well. He had good hands.”

Trione told Hernandez if he worked the horses in the morning, he probably would ride Trione’s horses in some races.

“It worked,” Trione said. “The first one I rode him on, it won. And the others were all right there. We just went from there.”

That turned out to be a breakout year for the 20-year-old future star. He won the riding title at Fairmount in 2005, the first of four in a row. He finished second in 2009 when he left to go to Indiana for a month, but returned in 2010 to claim the jockey championship.

Hernandez has been on top ever since.

He now rides primarily for trainer Scott Becker, who trains for Fairmount owner Bill Stiritz. And the trio are entered in the sixth race Thursday at Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Ky., aboard Congenial.

Hernandez has replaced Dave Gall as the most liked or hated rider at Fairmount, depending on the outcome of a race. Last month, Hernandez won seven of eight races on a card and over a three race-day period won 12 of 13 races.

“He’s smart and he’s good to work with,” Becker said. “He has real good hands and he gets (horses) to relax. He’s a very good gate jock. Never gets in trouble.”

While a lot of jockeys like to go out and have a good time then have to lose weight to keep riding, Hernandez is the opposite. He doesn’t drink or smoke and is a strong family man. He stands 5 feet 5, weighs 112 pounds and is married (Cynthia) with two children (Rafael Jr., 4 and Rodrigo, 2).

Hernandez, who had plans to be an airplane mechanic if riding didn’t pan out, has the ability to ride and be successful anywhere in the country. But he chooses to anchor close to home.

As far as retiring as a rider, Hernandez doesn’t think about that. He’s in the prime of his career and would like to ride in the Triple Crown races, the Breeders’ Cup and other big events.

“I’ll go as far as my body lets me go,” he said. “I don’t have any bad habits.”

Hernandez just doesn’t play music. He lets his horses spin the records.



Slots at Fairmount

June 14th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

If at first you don’t succeed …. That seems to be the motto of the folks who want expanded gambling in Illinois. They’re trying to figure out what to do now that the gambling bill didn’t get called for a vote in the state House before the end of the legislative session.

One huge stumbling block to the bill’s success was the inability of lawmakers to work out a dealthat would add slot machines at Fairmount Racetrack — as was planned for all the other tracks in the state — but not undercut the Casino Queen and the city of East St. Louis, which counts on the taxes it generates.

Such are the challenges for government when it picks winners and losers as it has with gambling.

We understand why the Casino Queen doesn’t want more competition. The growth of government sanctioned video gambling has hurt. In April alone, 10 metro-east communities near the casino and unincorporated St. Clair County had profits — which means losses for customers– of $990,285. That’s part of the reason the Casino Queen’s take was down in April by $1.26 million.

However, it doesn’t make sense to allow video gambling at taverns, clubs and fraternal organizations and not at Fairmount — particularly if other tracks would be allowed to have slot machines.

If a statewide gambling expansion bill in the future has any chance of success, this local stalemate will have to be solved first.


Press Release from Rep. Bob Rita

May 30th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks



Rep. Rita Statement on Gambling Expansion

Legislator Does Not Call Bill But Will Continue Push for Solution in Fall Veto Session

 SPRINGFIELD – State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, today issued the following statement about his decision not to call Senate Bill 1739, the gambling expansion bill, before the end of the spring legislative session:

“As the Illinois Legislature ends its spring session, I did not call Senate Bill 1739, the gambling expansion proposal I have worked on for a year now, for a vote. The time was not right to build the support needed for the bill to pass the Illinois House and Senate and be signed into law by the governor.

I am disappointed we could not move this issue forward this spring, but I am determined to prepare a bill for consideration in the fall veto session. We will be considering important revenue and budget issues during that session. I believe gambling expansion should and will be a major factor as we make these critical decisions going into 2015.

We still have a number of issues to work through before then. Chief among them are building support from the governor and mayor of Chicago, resolving disputes over revenue sharing in several communities where expansion would happen and working to ensure we build on the gambling revenue we have in our state and not merely cannibalize it within our existing facilities. The public hearings we had this year produced important discussion on the challenges standing in the way of expansion. I plan to have more public hearings and meetings to further discuss these issues over the summer and fall.

I want to put together a package that reflects the important role that horse racing tracks and casinos play in our economy and for our state budget. We need the horse racing industry and communities who want new casinos supporting this bill. My commitment is to find solutions for their issues, including restoring gaming positions at the race tracks and providing an agreement that allows slots at Fairmount Park in the Metro East. We should have a special opportunity to make our case for gambling expansion at the end of this year, and I want to do everything we can to take advantage of it.”

Ryan Keith

RK PR Solutions




From the Chicago Sun Times

May 26th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks


Lobbyist and former U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello (left) and his son, John Costello. The junior Costello was hired as an Illinois lobbyist while his father was in Congress. | File photos

Former congressman cashing in on connections

SUN, 05/25/2014 – 10:57PM

Retired U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello. D-Ill., spent his entire congressional career serving on the House committee that oversees railroads, highways, transit and aviation.

Now, the connections he made during 24 years representing a Downstate district are proving lucrative for Costello as a lobbyist and consultant for transportation and other interests.

According to interviews and records:

• As a congressman, Costello pushed for the Air Force to award a $35 billion tanker contract to Boeing Corp. The Chicago company now pays him $10,000 a month as a lobbyist. It also hired his son John Costello as an Illinois lobbyist while Costello was in Congress.

• In the House, he helped downstate Scott Air Force base survive multiple rounds of base closings. Now, Costello, who left Congress in January 2013, is part of a team paid $25,000 a month to help keep Scott safe from future base closings.

• Costello, the congressman, secured millions of dollars for the downstate Madison County Transit District — and now gets $7,000 a month from the agency as a lobbyist.

Records show John Costello also has found work with interests his father backed in Congress:

• The congressman helped the freight railroad industry in its successful 2012 fight to beat back an effort to allow bigger trucks on the nation’s highways. During that time, the Illinois Railroad Association paid Costello’s son as much as $60,000 a year to lobby in Springfield.

• Costello was an advocate in the House for renewing a federal tax credit for “short line” railroads. An industry group called the Short Line Tax Policy Coalition hired Costello’s son as an Illinois lobbyist as this issue was being debated in Congress.

The former congressman says clients have sought him as a lobbyist because, “They knew that I was knowledgeable. I had experience.”

Costello, 64, says his son was hired to lobby on state issues and that no one got special consideration from him in Congress as a result.

John Costello did not respond to requests for comment.

May 20th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks


Starting Saturday all horsemen taking horses to the paddock will be supplied a vest identifying the number of his horse. Horsemen will pick their vest up in the HBPA office and turn it in at the paddock when the horse goes to the track.

The track will be closed for training next Wednesday the 28th.

May 20th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

May 20, 2014

Dear Friends,

As a longtime advocate for Fairmount Park and policies that promote the track as a premier destination in the region, I wanted to let you know that I recently introduced Amendment #7 to Senate Bill 1739, which would re-insert Fairmount Park into the comprehensive gaming expansion package. As you know, none of the gaming expansion proposals introduced in Springfield this year included gaming positions for Fairmount Park, even though there are provisions for every other race track in the state to take advantage of gaming revenues at their tracks.

Just a few months ago, we worked together to avoid a drastic decrease in racing days by passing advance deposit wagering legislation. That same persistence and willingness to work with folks on both side of the issue will be necessary as we fight for fairness for Fairmount Park.

Fairmount Park has been a tradition and economic engine for our region. I can assure you I will continue to fight for its’ viability.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (618) 416-7407 or RepJayHoffman@gmail.com.


Jay C. Hoffman

State Representative

113th District



May 10th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Wild Conspiracy in the lead on the back stretch

But a cloud hangs over the track. A bill has been introduced in the Illinois Legislature that would allow slot machines at horse tracks — something the racing industry has long said it needs — but an amendment has been added to the bill that would exclude Fairmount. Every track in Illinois except Fairmount would get slots.

The amendment was the work of state Rep. Robert Rita. He cited concerns about East St. Louis. He said that East St. Louis is so dependent on revenue from the Casino Queen that any decrease in that revenue would “compromise the safety of the people from East St. Louis.”

Rita is a Democrat from Blue Island. That’s in Cook County. In fact, his district includes parts of the far south side of Chicago. I grew up one block outside of his district. I cannot recall anybody in my old neighborhood ever expressing concern about the people of East St. Louis. For that matter, I doubt if we knew that East St. Louis was in Illinois.

So why would Rita be worried about the well-being of people so far removed from his district? That is grist for conspiracy theorists, but before getting into that, let me give you a little background.

For several years, the Illinois Legislature has been trying to come up with a bill that would expand gaming in Illinois. New casino licenses would be issued. The impetus comes from Chicago. City officials complain they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year to casinos across the border in Indiana.

Part of the gaming expansion would allow slot machines at racetracks. Track owners point out that slots are allowed at tracks in Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Arkansas. Industry officials say the machines have breathed new life into the tracks. The slots mean more revenue, which means bigger purses, which means better horses and more racing dates. That means more jobs.

Twice in the last three years, the Illinois Legislature has passed a gaming expansion bill only to have it vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn, who has expressed concerns mainly about the public ownership of the proposed Chicago mega-casino.

The current bill would authorize five new casinos. In addition to a casino in downtown Chicago, one would be just south of the city — in Rita’s neck of the woods. That brought Rita into the game. I chatted with him a couple of times this past week in an effort to figure this out.

Who stands to gain if the gaming bill doesn’t pass? The current license holders. They’ll have another year without having to share gaming revenue. Also, the casinos in Indiana will be big winners if the bill stalls. Who stands to gain the most if the bill passes? Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The other locations that will get the new casinos, including the southern suburbs. Who’s in charge of putting the bill together? The Illinois Legislature.

No wonder conspiracy theorists are busy. Let’s pretend this is a horse race. Pick the winner yourself.

1. Big-Hearted Pol — No games here. Rita is a rare breed of politician. He truly cares about the people of East St. Louis.

2. Don’t Turn Your Back — Rita is working on behalf of somebody other than his constituents. He hopes to scuttle the bill.

3. Loves a Queen — Rita wants to pass a bill, but he’s working on the side for the Casino Queen. Why not do two things at once?

4. Anybody But You — Rita doesn’t like Fairmount Park. Plain and simple.

5. Cook County Chrome — Rita represents an area that wants a casino, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to get the bill passed. He’s got some colleagues from East St. Louis who could bring the Black Caucus into the fray if he doesn’t get some concessions from Fairmount. That’s why he wants to protect East St. Louis. He says the owner of the track — that would be William Stiritz — is a rich guy who is used to getting his own way. Rita figures the amendment excluding Fairmount is the best way to get the owner’s attention.

That last one sounds like the favorite to me, except that track manager Brian Zander has argued — persuasively, I think — that most of the track’s customers drive past the Casino Queen to get to Fairmount. He doesn’t think the track will be taking much business from the casino. Also, the original bill sent part of the new tax revenue to East St. Louis.

By the way, Rita sent a letter Friday to his “metro East colleagues in the General Assembly.” He said he proposed his amendments to spark debate. He said he’s hoping for a compromise.

The race is on.

​Bill McClellan is a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Read his columns here.

Bill McClellan

Bill McClellan worked as a reporter in Phoenix before coming to the Post-Dispatch in 1980. He was night-police reporter before becoming a columnist in 1983. He also appears on Channel 9′s Donnybrook.