At the end of the day the goals of most horsemen and seemingly most candidates are very similar. I do not see value in the negative back and forth and “us vs. them” mentality that has permeated this election. I also do not agree with any sitting board member campaigning for the entire board to be reelected, each person is running as an individual, not as a board. And I certainly do not agree with broad brush statements made by certain candidates, especially when these same people have never even met me.
With that said…
I have been a Maryland owner for 27 years, starting with a single claimer in 1990 and through the years owning over 100 horses from low-end to Stake caliber and everything in-between. I started in claiming, became very involved in breeding, then sales and, after learning the hard lessons all horsemen experience, decided the best and most enjoyable path for me was a combination of all.
After years of owning horses on my own or with family, I formed Winners Circle Partners in 2004. In my role as Managing Partner I have the responsibilities of selecting horses, interacting with Partners and managing day-to-day operations and finances for each Partnership. And I think it is important to note that I put an equal amount of money into these Partnerships as every other Partner so I get the rewards while carrying the same risks. The Partnerships have brought over (50) new Maryland owners (and growing) into the game.
When not paying horse bills I own Potomac Computer Services, an IT consulting firm providing end to end support for small and medium sized businesses. Prior to this, I cofounded a software development company that eventually went public and was acquired by EMC. Like most other owners I would prefer to focus 100% of my time on horses but I need to have a “real” job to pay for the horses!
What do I feel I can contribute?
- A strong mix of business ownership experience (both small business and corporate) and knowing the ups, downs and everything in-between in the horseracing industry.
- As an owner actively involved in racing, breeding, claiming and purchasing from sales, I have a broad interest in the industry.
- Balance. Contrary to much of the back and forth I have seen, I am not “on one side or the other”. I want Maryland racing to succeed and fully accept and appreciate this requires a balancing act between what everyone wants, feasibility of what can be accomplished and reasonable compromise.
Most important issues facing the industry?
- Maintain a strong relationship with Annapolis and continue to protect the casino revenues earmarked to support the racing industry.
- More opportunities for Maryland horsemen to race in Maryland without having to look outside of the State for races. We all seem to agree that grass heavy cards and (3) day race weeks are not supporting the horse population in Maryland. This combined with pressure not to run out of State results in constant conflict while severely impacting the ability for local stables to stay in business. “We agree” is not a solution and this needs to be addressed.
- Continued focus on backstretch programs. We need to provide for individuals who are the on grounds backbone of the industry.
- I have always been a strong advocate of taking care of your horses on the track and continuing care until a horse is responsibly placed into a new career. Continue strong support for Beyond the Wire and ensure the program is a success.
Horsemen, please be part of the process, be as informed as possible and vote!
Stewart A. Nickel