HBPA “SPINS” OUT OF CONTROL AFTER ANNOUNCEMENT OF PURSE AGREEMENT

The MassTHA provided notice to the Massachusetts State Gaming Commission it has entered into a purse agreement with the Middleborough Agricultural Society, produced through the regular contractual process between a race association and a horsemen’s group, to conduct live thoroughbred racing at the Brockton Fair Grounds in 2016. Racing could commence as early as July, subject to approval of the Gaming Commission and its establishment of race dates for the venue. The agreement also covers 2017.

As word spread of the accomplishment, the local HBPA posted a rambling, incoherent and factually inaccurate open letter aimed at local horsemen and women to its web-site. The apoplectic response revealed its dissatisfaction with the milestone reached by the MassTHA after several months of negotiations with principals of the Middleborough Agricultural Society having applied for and maintained a placeholder application with the Gaming Commission.

The HBPA has apparently suspended disbelief that it no longer represents the majority of local horsemen in the Commonwealth, asserting among other allegations, it remains relevant as a legitimate representative of local horsemen, which is greatly in dispute, despite the horsemen group’s Boards demonstrated inability to secure or conduct more than a few days of live racing in 2015, largely benefiting a select group of out of state owners and trainers.

It has become clearly evident over the last several months the HBPA has abandoned its primary purpose of benevolence and protection of local horsemen in favor of a ” pie in the sky ” equine center to replace the aging Suffolk facility and replace the uninterested Suffolk / Sterling race association. Several former HBPA members were contacted for comment.

” The inability of the HBPA Board to formulate and execute a plan for local racing other than a self serving, speculative, uncertain and UN-finance-able proposal to their membership is the reason , I and others I presume, have sought competent representation with a different horsemen’s group ” said one former member of the now struggling HBPA. ” I don’t know any horsemen who believe the HBPA can sustain the thoroughbred industry in the Commonwealth while they conduct studies using non-existent locations to fund useless studies with race horse development funds” said another defecting and former HBPA member. ” The HBPA has either suspended or expelled a significant portion of their membership. The others have fled to greener pastures or been put out to pasture. I am one of them” said a former member of the HBPA who refused to be identified,  “for fear of retaliation if Suffolk were to ever hold a meet again”. “I was on a list at the last Suffolk meet and denied access to the track”.

“In my personal opinion, the HBPA response to the success of the MassTHA is a knee jerk reaction to their failed business model. The world and especially Massachusetts is an efficient market place demanding the void in the thoroughbred industry created by the HBPA be filled before the industry goes the way of Colonial Downs or active racing in Alabama”, said a former member.

” The HBPA letter is simply an attempt to capitalize upon the hard work and success of the MassTHA or alternatively hijack work the HBPA Board was to incompetent or uninterested to accomplish. The HBPA never raised the issue of Brockton racing or initiated contact with the placeholder until the MassTHA initiated a proposal to utilize the Brockton Fair Grounds. The HBPA Board and their remaining several members have consistently derided and disparaged both the facility and the principals involved in Brockton and now seeks an audience with them. Frankly, the mere thought of the HBPA being involved in or conducting competitive racing is laughable considering the allegations of impropriety concerning the 2014 president and board elections, the lack of transparency concerning their relationship with Suffolk / Sterling and the failure of the HBPA to fully account to the horsemen and women where Race Horse Development Funds have been expended and on whose behalf ” , said a 40 year veteran owner and trainer.

In response to the open letter, Attorney Robert Scarano, Counsel to the MassTHA, said ” I am not sure who the author of the open letter is or  what source of legal authority the author relies upon. “The Interstate Horseracing Act ( “IHA”) regulates simulcast signals transmitted between states by race associations who receive authority to allow transmission through a purse agreement. The IHA is clear and unambiguous. The horsemen’s group representing the  “majority of owners and trainers” at a meet is authorized to transfer of withhold the signal to a race association by contract, here a purse agreement.

“The Massachusetts State Gaming Commission draft, provided and initially interpret the rules and regulations through the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (“CMR”). Currently the “Draft” definition section of 205 CMR 149.00 et. seq.,  specifically provides for the eventuality of two or more horsemen groups and the allocation of funds from the Race Horse Development Fund under chapter 23 K.. The amount and allocation is entirely within the discretion of the Gaming Commission after due consideration of the benefit conferred upon horsemen, the Commonwealth and the thoroughbred industry by a race meet proposal.”

“At this point the author appears to be misinformed, confused or ignorant of the current state of Federal law, State law and the Code of Massachusetts Regulations. I will close by saying the courts are full of authors under similar impression and most are summarily disposed of  by the courts when they assert  baseless causes of action,  proceed upon unsubstantiated fact or cannot support their legal conclusions. I suspect this is one of these cases. As to the rest of the allegations raised by this author, I suspect a statute of limitations or waiver response might be relevant if there is any basis to the thin facts referenced.”

Attorney Scarano also indicated he would be perusing and providing correspondence to the Race Horse Committee relevant to the Standard Bred proposal to alter the allocation of Race Horse Development purse funds in light of the MassTHA purse agreement. ” There appears to be no persuasive reason to alter the split between Thoroughbred and Standardbred except for an opportunity due to a temporary lull in thoroughbred racing.”

Election Secretary Patricia Reardon indicated the ” The nomination process for the initial MassTHA election for President and Board Members was proceeding according to the original schedule approved in February.” The process of communication, receiving confirmation and then providing over 500 packages by mail to our members has been made more difficult by the lack of a race meet where our members may convene.” We fully expect to complete the election process and conduct a general meeting and receive input on by-law amendments during the Brockton race meet.” The election rules and regulations are in place and are modeled after National THA chapters with whom we  have expressed interest in  joining as a new chapter. The approval of the purse agreement make association with the National THA a distinct possibility. We hope to be received with open arms.”

Attorney Scarano did note that the open letter posted by the HBPA utilizes the mnemonic ” MTHA” , a short hand term and reserved Mark of the Maryland chapter of the THA. “In fact, the MTHA attorney initiated correspondence to the MassTHA president William Lagorio about the use of the mnemonic (sounds like newmonic) “MTHA”.

In a prepared response,  Attorney Scarano to Attorney Alan Foreman, he indicated ” the use of “MTHA” mark has been deliberately or negligently and exclusively used by those that oppose our mission”. “We provided a disclaimer upon stationary and publication specifically noting we are not yet associated with National THA or trading upon the MTHA Mark, but hope in the near future to associate with such a prestigious organization.” Scarano said “the repeated reference to MTHA in the April open letter provides direct support of his original suspicions.”

The letter continues to allege the MassTHA is operating out side some preconceived notion of procedure. Scarano responded ” the MassTHA is a registered Massachusetts corporation following the law as set forth in this Commonwealth. “Every action taken by the MassTHA is conducted, resolved and recorded by the Secretary in conformity with the corporate charter and bylaws.” ” Maybe the author is not familiar with the actual corporate process.”

posted by “down the stretch”

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