No horsing around: Two groups representing thoroughbred owners, trainers to battle in court
UPDATE, 9/28/16: Suit dismissed. Ruling attached below.
A federal lawsuit filed this week could determine whether attendees at the Brockton Fair get to see horse racing this summer.
The New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, based in East Boston, filed suit in US District Court in Boston against the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association over who gets to represent horse owners and trainers - and against a contract the latter group signed with Brockton Fairgrounds owner George Carney for races in July.
In its complaint, the New England group alleges the Massachusetts group is basically a front for Carney, who it charges wants to avoid paying $300,000 in simulcast fees he allegedly still owes for Raynham Park simulcasts of races at Suffolk Downs. Also, the suit charges, the contract for Brockton racing is illegal - because the upstart group is not authorized to represent "horsemen" - and even dangerous, because the fairground track is simply not safe.
The race track is a five-furlong bullring race track. It is significantly less than one mile in circumference and narrow. This renders the race track extremely dangerous to the thoroughbreds racing there and to the jockeys riding them if proper safeguards are not in place. Indeed, the race track has not been utilized since 2001, after a tragic accident occurred there. During the fourth race on opening day of the meet in 2001, four of the seven thoroughbreds were injured competing in that race. As a result of that accident, two of the four injured thoroughbreds had to be humanely destroyed. Nevertheless, the MTHA has agreed to race at the Brockton Fairgrounds without ensuring that track management took the necessary steps to minimize the risks of racing at this dated facility and to improve horse and jockey safety.
The New England group alleges the Interstate Horseracing Act sets certain conditions for who can represent horse owners and trainers and that the Massachusetts group meets none of those.
The group, which is also alleging defamation by the newer organization, asks a judge to declare it the sole representative of horse owners and trainers in the state, that he cancel the Brockton racing contract and tell Carney that if he wants to have horse racing at the fairgrounds - and earn more money from simulcasting it - he needs to sign a contract with the New England group.
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They need to work this out
Yes, there is a bunch of politics and probably a small amount of corruption going on with this, but the reality is that the Brockton Fair is the only real option for the horsemen this year. Sorry, but 3 weekends of Suffolk Downs, spaced out over 3 months, does not bode well for the local thoroughbred community. Heck, I don't think that Carney's 30 days is that much, but it's something.
Unless the NEHBPA comes up with a solution and build a proper (hopefully with a turf option) track, the bull ring is what they've got. Hastings Park is the same size, and Charles Town has a decent number of days with the same size, too.
Could the court order these two groups to merge
as a condition of granting the racing licenses? That seems like the easiest solution.