09/18/2014 5:31PM

Brockton Fairgrounds to apply for Massachusetts racing dates

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As Suffolk Downs management was forced to notify employees and horsemen Wednesday that the track’s closure is imminent as a consequence of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Tuesday decision to award the Boston casino license to Wynn Resorts, another track owner stepped forward with a plan to keep Thoroughbred racing alive in the state.

“We reached out to the [New England] HBPA yesterday,” said Christopher Carney, whose family owns the Brockton Fairgrounds and Raynham Park, formerly a greyhound track. “They are in the middle of elections and can’t enter into discussions until after the results are final. We reached out to them because we have aspirations.”

Carney and his 86-year-old father, George, and partner Greenwood Racing, the owner of Parx Racing, had applied for the single slots parlor license in Massachusetts. But they and another proposal from the Cordish Cos. lost out in February to Penn National Gaming Inc.’s plan to build what will be the new $225 million Plainridge Park Casino at the state’s only harness racing track.

In their application, the Carney family offered to host live Standardbred racing at the fairgrounds in the event that Penn National did not secure the license. Now they are extending the welcome to Thoroughbred horsemen.

“We’re going to file a racing dates application on Oct. 1 for one day for both Middleboro Agricultural [fair] and Brockton Agricultural,” said Carney. “We’ve got our applications on our desk, and we’re filling them out now.”

Brockton was part of the now-defunct Massachusetts Fair circuit and last hosted Thoroughbred racing in 2000.

“We spent better than $4 million on the revitalization of the Brockton Fairgrounds back in 2000, and we’d like to have the chance to put our interests back in play,” Carney said. “We think it’s a great location, and the purses would far exceed anything we’d be able to generate through simulcasting. If we ran a 60-day meet in Brockton, the purse structure would be for the local people and would be better for them than it would be at Suffolk.”

Carney reasoned that since the dirt track is six furlongs and there is no turf course, out-of-town outfits would not ship in to compete against locals, as they have done at Suffolk Downs.

The initial plan calls for a 60-day meet in 2015. Carney said that if the purses grow through the Thoroughbred horsemen’s 75 percent share of future monies to be allocated through the state’s new Race Horse Development Fund, which will be stocked by a percentage of casino and slots-parlor license fees and future profits, they will add dates.

“We have a viable plan because we already own the location. We have already spent the money for the barns, and the infrastructure and all is intact. It might not be big, glitzy, and glamorous, but it worked for us in 2000,” said Carney. “We don’t need thousands of horses, which aren’t even around anymore. We only need hundreds of horses. It would be a great opportunity for the horsemen and for us. I wanted to meet with the HBPA as early this week.”