Despite reports to the contrary , the MassTHA has made significant strides to become one of the recognized horsemen’s group in the Commonwealth. Mark Twain’s retort ” the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” comes to mind as other publications and their advocates down play the significance of recent gaming commission proceedings.

In response to MassTHA president William Lagorio’s September 28, 2015 request to the Massachusetts State Gaming Commission, seeking recognition as the recognized horseman group in the Commonwealth and the December 15, 2015 objection of the NEHBPA to the recognition request, the Commission elicited and received input from legal counsel Catherine Blue. The public hearing was reserved for Commission discussion on December 17, 2015 at the offices of the state gaming commission. No public comment was allowed. The matter was further scheduled for a public comment period to be determined.

Catherine Blue, issued clear interpretation of and the application of existing statutes and regulations controlling the request for recognition by the MassTHA and opposition by the HBPA.

The MassTHA request for recognition to the commission as -“the entity representing the majority of horseman” – was addressed and discussed in detail , the Commission having simultaneously received revealing research from other race jurisdictions encountering similar predicaments.

The Commission immediately recognized their statutory authority and their regulatory role under G.L. c. 128A, c.128C , c.23K, 205 CMR 149 and 205 CMR 4.23 , as well as their authority to disburse from the Race Horse Development Funds. The commission well considered the recognition issue and seemed to agree that recognition of the horsemen group was secondary to entering into a purse agreement with the racing association conducting a meet at a track.

Counsel Blue opined ,” There is no specific requirement for the Commission to recognize a horsemen’s organization and no procedure for recognition”. The Commission’s regulations are also silent on the matter, citing  (“M.G.L. c. 128A section 5 and c.128C section 4”).

The requirement of a purse agreement, from discussion, appeared to be the determining factor for recognition by the Commission. Relying upon the contractual purse relationship between the horsemen and the race association at a single track allows the commission to act upon requests of respective horsemen groups to fund agreed-upon purse amounts reached between horsemen and racing associations. This recognition, together with approval of simulcasting and payment of monies under the race horse development fund constitute the only recognition by the commissions and and fulfills its duties.

After due consideration by the commission of other jurisdiction reaching various remedies, the commission members directed their attention to specific Massachusetts regulations requiring clarification and enforcement as a result of Lagorio’s inquiry and request. Counsel Blue’s memorandum to the commission identified two specific areas, one requiring amendment the second requiring enforcement.

“First, the commission should create regulations that support those purposes in the context of Massachusetts law and the purpose of the race horse development fund”.

Counsel Blue’s went on to conclude and recommend ” that 205 CMR 149 be amended to add a definition of horsemen organization along the lines of that already found in c. 128A” i.e., the appropriate horsemen’s association representing the horse owners at that meeting.  The amended regulation can provide that the determination of the appropriate horsemen’s association be based upon the organization’s provision to the track of a list of its members representing more than 5 l% of the owners and trainers who race at that track.

The key language answering the first issue presented appears in Counsel Blue’s conclusion and is paraphrased as follows.

“It is recommended that the regulation (205 CMR 149) provide that any payments due from the race horse development fund will be made once the commission receives proof of majority representation and the execution of a purse agreement. .. within the discretion of the Commission….after proper request….for each meet. That payments from the race horse development fund…even if more than one….be split evenly between the horsemen’s organizations”.

In addition to providing proof of majority horsemen representation to the track, the amended regulation should provide that the horsemen’s organization be required to enter into a purse agreement with the track prior to the start of the meet.

The key language answering the second issue presented appears in Counsel Blue’s final conclusion and is paraphrased as follows.

” ln order to support the amendments to 205 CMR 149, it is recommended that the racing regulations at 205 CMR 4.23 be amended to provide that no owner’s license shall be issued except to a person who owns 20 % (twenty percent) or more of a horse”.

This regulation has always been part of the regulatory scheme, but over the years has been ignored, misused and eroded, because there was no necessity to consider it until two groups vied for recognition and there was disputed membership numbers. This analysis will be the subject of further posts by this writer. Which reminds me of another Mark Twain quote. “the man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them”.

It is now apparent the current statutes and regulations anticipate and allow more than one horsemen group, the majority of horsemen at that track may enter into a purse agreement with the race horse association , purses will be established in the discretion of the Commission and race horse development funds will be divide equally between the horsemen groups after purse agreements and majority determinations are reached.

In all due respect to other publications reporting on this significant development, this writer is committed to the unbiased reporting of recent developments regarding this important issue to Massachusetts based horsemen and women. I strongly urge comments and questions be presented in this forum. I will do my best to answer the same or refer the issue accordingly.

I leave you with the last Mark Twain quote relevant to MassTHA members and this important issue. ” Don’t’ part with your illusions. When they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live”. And… live we must with the decisions and future determinations of the Commission. It is now more important than ever to assemble, discuss and resolve to be more proactive in 2016 because only this membership can preserve the commonwealth’s thoroughbred industry, ensure the continued ability to conduct full race meets and demonstrate we are the majority of horsemen and women, all as represented by the MassTHA

Wishing all our readers Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. Please visit our President’s Update, posted later today.

posted by “down the stretch”


  1. I am a member of the MTHA and I am part of the majority of horsemen organization that is working for me to help get live racing back in the state of Mass

  2. MTHA is the group who I want to to represent me as a horsemen I believe that the wording needs to state that the majority of horsemen should determine who represents or negotiate for the horsemen of mass.

  3. I believe the wording should state the the majority of horsemen should determine who represents or negotiates for the horsemen of Mass.

  4. I am represented by the MTHA and I believe that the wording needs to state that the majority of horsemen should determine who should represent or negotiate for the horsemen of mass.

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