Ron Smith Named FQHRA President

Smith takes the reins for Florida association.

Edited Press Release

Ron Smith

At the December 5 Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association general membership and Board of Directors meeting held at John Shaw’s Pheenix Farms near Gainesville, Florida, Dr. Steve Fisch handed over the reins of the organization to Ron Smith, who was elected and will now serve as president.

Smith grew up on a farm south of Atlanta, and trained show horses at the highest levels. He is a past president of the Georgia Quarter Horse Association and a national director for AQHA, as well as serving on a number of AQHA committees.  He has also helped with Georgia’s effort to bring pari-mutual racing back to the state, working to educate elected officials on the subject, and was recently elected chairman of the Department of Agriculture Commodities Commission for Equines. He also serves as executive director for LightHorse Healthcare Inc.

FQHRA has seen a lot of changes in the past 10 years, beginning from virtually nothing in 2005, but has grown and worked to ensure a full schedule of live racing (40 days of racing with a minimum of eight races per day) which is required in order to operate a slots license. Also any slots license/card room permit owner must have a horsemen’s agreement on file with DBPR in order to operate their gaming facility.

These seven years of racing have put $30 million of purse money into horsemen’s pockets. The horses that race in Florida, many of whom are accredited Florida-breds, have gone on to be major stars around the country.

The accredited Florida-bred program is the only program in the country that allows mares to be bred to accredited state stallions and be born in other states. This practice allows for greater genetic diversity and improvement in the breed. The accredited Florida-breds are about to have their first restricted $200,000 Guaranteed Sunshine State Derby. Horses entered in this race were born in many states and are coming from all over the country.

FQHRA has also defended legitimate horse racing from attempts to allow “drop the flag racing” and other quasi-racing. These successful defenses have great implications for the rest of the country as well. FQHRA has defended attempted takeovers of the horsemen’s bookkeeper accounts and made sure the horsemen get paid what is rightfully due to them.

In 2006, most of the Florida legislature didn’t know what an American Quarter Horse was. Now FQHRA/AQHA is a respected organization in the state capitol and both organizations are named in the Florida statutes. At this point, FQHRA has been successful in every effort to defend AQHA racing in Florida. These efforts have cost well over $500,000 and thousands of hours of volunteer time from the FQHRA administrative staff and Will Fisch CPA, as well as AQHA and FQHRA members and board of directors.

FQHRA has also developed a first class and synergistic relationship with the FHBPA and the FTBOA as we formed the United Horsemen of Florida in 2011 while defending legitimate horse racing in Florida.

“The people in these Thoroughbred organizations are not only our allies, they are our friends,” said Dr. Fisch. “We all understand the concept of we can hang together or we can hang separately. The Quarter Horses and the Thoroughbreds joined forces to demonstrate and preserve the great economic impact of horse racing in Florida. In 2014 the FQHRA, FHBPA and the FTBOA, as the United Florida Horsemen, invested over $75,000 in an economic impact study that demonstrated just how important horse racing and breeding is to the economy of Florida and the USA.”

As FQHRA has grown and had great success over the last 10 years, in spite of constant challenges to overcome, it has become evident that a change to a two-pronged form of leadership would benefit the horsemen and breeders and lead to more growth for Quarter Horse racing in Florida.

“Due to the time-consuming nature of the legal, legislative efforts and administrative efforts that is takes to keep making progress and to defend what we have, I will continue to lead those efforts and Ron Smith will take over as president leading FQHRA’s policy and aiming the organization towards new growth in racing opportunities,” said Dr. Fisch. “I believe Ron Smith is the man for the job. He is a dedicated visionary and has shown his great leadership skills in many other organizations. Ron is a person who is a team player and he will do a great job. He does not have racehorses and he doesn’t breed them at the present time but he does have the leadership skills that this job requires. Ron is one of the many quality people I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with during the last 10 years that the members have allowed me to serve as president. My plan is to continue to serve FQHRA in the legislature and by guiding our legal efforts. However I will always have an ear open for the racing and breeding horsemen. It has been a great pleasure and education over the last 10 years and I thank each and everyone one of you for the opportunity. You are in good hands.”

"In the last 10 years, Dr. Fisch has provided an exceptional amount of guidance and determination that has helped FQHRA grow to become what it is today,” said Smith. “I want to personally thank him for his hard work, and hope all of you will take the time to thank him for his never-ending dedication to the sport of Quarter Horse racing. I will continue the task of helping make Florida a premier destination for racing. FQHRA has been successful working with other organizations within the state to reach common goals. That relationship will continue. We will provide a safe place for our horses to race, and a welcoming environment for our members and others to enjoy our sport. With everyone's help, the ‘First Coast’ can become the first choice for owners to race their horses. I look forward to meeting some of you in the coming weeks in Hialeah, and wish to you a happy and successful holiday season."

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