In January the NEHBPA pulled the simulcasting signal from the New York Racing Association, and then horsemen in Ohio, Florida, and Oregon withdrew their consent. Now the Maryland horsemen have lent their support so races from Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs, Beulah Park, Portland Meadows, and Laurel Park cannot be simulcast at Suffolk. Under Massachusetts law, state residents are also prohibited from betting those tracks through their advance deposit wagering accounts.
Updated: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 6:57 PM
By Lynne Snierson
The management of Suffolk Downs sent a formal letter to the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association February 15 asking the horsemen to restore simulcasting signals and also reiterated its intention to conduct a live meet in 2011. The two sides are battling over a new contract and the major obstacles are the number of racing days, the purse structure, and the split over the simulcasting revenue.
During the acrimonious negotiations, which have dragged on for more than three weeks, the NEHBPA withdrew its consent for races from the New York Racing Association to be simulcast at the East Boston, Mass., track and in turn horsemen in Ohio, Florida, Oregon, and Maryland pulled their signals. As a result, Suffolk has been forced to cut its hours of operation and reduce staffing levels.
“First, we have been consistent about our intention to run a live meet in 2011 and still hope to do so,” Suffolk chief executive officer Chip Tuttle wrote in the letter addressed to NEHBPA president Al Balestra. “The actions of the NEHBPA and other HBPA chapters around the country are making it much more difficult to achieve that goal. We have asked repeatedly in our dialogue over the last few weeks for you to restore the NYRA signal and to encourage other HBPA chapters to give their consent to send their simulcast signal to Suffolk Downs. Your actions continue to deprive Suffolk Downs of the ability to generate revenue during this crucial time of the year and to generate purse money that you maintain is so vital to your members. The NEHBPA’s actions also have caused economic and emotional harm to many of our dedicated employees whose work schedules have been reduced due to lack of available simulcast product.”
Tuttle went on to write that the horsemen in New England and around the country have shown a “complete lack of respect” to the loyal customers who raise purse revenue by betting at Suffolk. He termed this disregard as “most troubling” and “most stunning.”
Concerning the number of live racing days in 2011, the horsemen have taken the position that a minimum of 100 is necessary in order for them to be able to pay their bills and properly care for their horses, while the track stated that economics dictate it conduct a meet of no less than 67 days with the potential to extend the meet to 76 days as long as expanded gaming legislation passes this year. The current state statute requires the minimum of 100 days of live Thoroughbred racing, and the track has requested that the horsemen work together with management to change the law. At this stage in the negotiations, the NEHBPA has not agreed to do so.
“All of the national trends of the last decade– wagering declines, industry economic issues, consolidation and the continuing decline in the foal crop– point to facilities like ours racing fewer days with higher purses and better quality of racing,” wrote Tuttle, who then implored the NEHBPA to cooperate with the track to secure favorable legislation to reduce the number of days required. “We ask that you please restore the NYRA signal and encourage other HBPA chapters to restore their signals as a show of good faith and to make it possible for us to race in 2011.”
Frank Frisoli, the attorney for the NEHBPA, said that he had received the letter Feb. 15 and sent a reply to Tuttle the same afternoon. He did not discuss the details of the horsemen’s response but did say, “This appears to be heating up. I don’t know if we’re headed to court or to a resolution.”
Meanwhile, the 82-year-old owner of the Brockton, Mass., Fairgrounds and a former greyhound track now open only for simulcasting in Massachusetts has jumped into the fray.
“This might be an opportunity to get back into the ballgame,” George Carney told the Brockton Enterprise. “I’m optimistic.”
Carney last raced Thoroughbreds at the Brockton Fair in 2001 after investing $3 million to upgrade the facility and he told the newspaper that he is prepared to pour in another $1 million to hold a live meet in 2011. Carney indicated that his meet could encompass the entire 100 days the horsemen want or any days beyond the 67 Suffolk stated it would like to race. A lobbyist for the NEHPBA confirmed that his group has held conversations with Carney and is considering the offer.
“I read with interest the news accounts of the NEHBPA’s discussions with the owners of the simulcast facility at Raynham-Taunton, which is still receiving all the simulcast signals that the HBPA chapters around the country have withdrawn from Suffolk Downs, to re-open the Brockton Fair to accommodate Thoroughbred racing,
” Tuttle went on to write in the letter. “While we would be concerned about the inequity in purses paid here and the purses paid at a fair meet, as well as the safety of your members and their horses in that environment, we remain open to any discussions that would give your members additional opportunities to race locally, especially if such opportunities could offset our current schedule and reduce the duration of keeping our barn area and training facilities open.”
Why doesn’t Suffolk Downs tell the truth and State we were greedy bastards that tried to stab you in the throat and it backfired. They didn’t expect other HBPAs from other States to give NEHBPA Support by pulling their signals too.
The only intention of Suffolk Downs was to give the Horsemen/Women as little as they could, Crumbs if you will to be able to still make money off the simulcasting. They could care less about being concerned about the inequity in purses paid at the old Fairgrounds and the purses paid at a fair meet, as well as the safety of your members and their horses in that environment.
What their concern really is Losing any business that would be conducted elsewhere taking from them. Who does this Tuttle think he’s kidding? Friggin Lying Con Man.
To the NEHBPA don’t settle for anything less than you know what their capabilities are.
Let them threaten Lawsuit. Like the saying goes you can’t get blood from a rock. And it is Suffolk Downs that has made you that rock without any more blood to give.
Stand Your Ground, because right now it is Suffolk Downs starting to cave in. You’ve served them up a nice size slice of HUMBLE PIE with the help of your fellow HBPA Horsemen/Women from other States. If this doesn’t rectify the situation I further encourage ALL the Thoroughbred HBPA Chapters to Pull their signals from Suffolk Downs as well.
When all this has been said and done, the real villains will have given in from all the so evident transparency.
Funny Here in the Detroit Area we also have an Old Fairgrounds that Thoroughbreds started at. Personally I wouldn’t mind going back there. And that environment wouldn’t bother me at the slightest.
In fact I think it would be a blast.
The Michigan State Fairgrounds holds the distinction of being the home of one of horse racings most famous accomplishments. In 1933 a horse named “Seabiscuit”, was born. The grandson of the famous Man ‘o War, Seabiscuit was considered a mediocre racehorse at best, until September 7, 1936, before a crowd of 28,000 people at the Detroit Race Track located at the Detroit Fairgrounds, Seabiscuit won his very first race, The Governor’s Handicap. It was the 50th race of his career. Seabiscuit and jockey, John (Red) Pollard repeated the feat on September 26, 1936 at the Fairgrounds, winning the Hendrie Handicap. This incredible racehorse quickly became a national hero due in part to his accomplishment at the Fairgrounds, and in 1938 Seabiscuit was named Horse of the Year. In 1958, he was voted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.
(Photo above, a race held at the Detroit Race Track at the fairgrounds. Photo
On Another Strange Note:
Stronach’s letter was e-mailed to media outlets Feb. 15. It recounts some of what occurred during the Dec. 21, 2010, MRC meeting at which no racing dates for 2011 were awarded. The parties hammered out a last-minute deal a day later for 146 racing days.
Stronach stated he tried to be constructive in addressing “critical challenges facing our industry.
“In my career, I have had to deal with his kind of confrontational approach ( The Horsemen’s ) on numerous occasions, and I have never found it productive.”
Really? It got them rid of you didn’t it? That deal was struck the day after you relinquished control over MID. I’d say that was very productive. And right now the NEHBPA is going to have Suffolk Downs on their knees begging pretty soon.
Look for years and years the Track Managements have dumped on the Horsemen’s heads with their either take this or we will shut you down and you’ll have no where to race attitude. Well the tides have turned only now it is the Horsemen that have taking the control over their own destiny’s. Now using the one power that they do possess. That Thoroughbred Simulcasting State and Inter-State signal.
Now it is the Track Management’s that are finally coming under fire from the years and decades of rage that’s been building up from taking all this crud. And the Horsemen & Women have finally said ENOUGH.
We may die, but with us SO WILL YOU. And it has people like Stronach, Suffolk Downs, Laurel Park & Pimlico scared to death. They liked it when they held that whip. Well finally SOME of the Horsemen/Women have ripped that whip that you held so long over them from your hands and are now using it back on you.
Frankly I don’t know what took them so long. But the tracks aren’t liking it are they? Tough
Now you know what they’ve felt like all those years of your threats. For once some are telling you what will be. For they will decide their future, not you.
So grin and bare it. In Michigan I’m still waiting for that day when the MIHBPA starts swinging back.
When they do, they just may get the shock of their lives. Though in our case it’s the State of Michigan along with the Track Management we are fighting. But if you think you’ve already been beaten then you have.
Sometimes you have to wake the dead and that requires some much – needed noise. But I wouldn’t go down without a fight, I’d go down SWINGING BACK.