Updated on 10/07/2014 1:25PM

New England HBPA elects board

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EAST BOSTON, Mass. – Members of the New England affiliate of the Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association, which has filed a placeholder application for live racing dates in 2015 and is attempting to lease Suffolk Downs, have elected a new board of directors.

The election was scheduled long before Suffolk Downs announced that live racing would end for good Oct. 4 and that the track would be shuttered for simulcasting in December. When the results were tallied, president Anthony Spadea was re-elected to another three-year term, and he will serve with a board comprised of five owners and five trainers.

The top vote getters among the owners were Shirley Dullea, Randy Andrews, Paul Umbrello, Susan Clark, and Manfred Roos. Dullea, Clark, and Roos were re-elected, while Andrews and Umbrello are new to the board. The trainers receiving the most votes were Alan Lockhart, Jay Bernardini, George Saccardo, Kevin McCarthy, and Matthew Clarke, and they all will serve for the first time.

Track ownership, which has lost $60 million in the last seven years, considers the lease arrangement a long shot at best but has pledged to keep an open mind. The horsemen remain hopeful that they can come up with an economically viable plan and come to terms. To date, the sides have had one meeting, but others are coming.

"We have an awful lot of work to do, and believe me, we're going to do everything we can,” Spadea said. “Our No. 1 goal is to lease Suffolk Downs and run a meet here."

Nonetheless, best intentions and arduous efforts will be for naught if the referendum to repeal Massachusetts's 2011 expanded gambling law passes Nov. 4. The repeal is question No. 3 on the statewide ballot, and a "yes" vote on the issue is the equivalent of a "no" vote for live Thoroughbred racing ever returning.

That's because the legislation contains protections for the state's racing industry through the establishment of the Race Horse Development Fund, which will be supplied by a percentage of the licensing fees and gaming revenue from the three destination resort casinos and one standalone slots parlor to be developed.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided to split the RHDF 75 percent for Thoroughbreds and 25 percent for Standardbreds, with 80 percent of that money going to purses, 16 percent to breeders, and 4 percent to backstretch welfare. When all of the casinos are up and running, the Thoroughbred horsemen's share could total in excess of $100 million.

Spadea stressed that the RHDF is key to the horsemen's ability to strike a deal with Suffolk, for without that money dedicated to purses, there can be no racing.

"So many good things can happen, but only as long as there is that revenue available," he said.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which in essence signed Suffolk's death warrant when it voted down a proposal from Mohegan Sun to build a casino on land leased from the track and instead favored a rival plan from Wynn Resorts for the single Boston-area casino license, said after the fact that it will work to keep the Thoroughbred racing industry alive.

Instead of requiring a completed 2015 racing-dates application and a $125,000 bond by the Oct. 1 deadline, it accepted the horsemen's placeholder application and another from the Carney family for a 60-day meet at the idle Brockton Fairgrounds, which has a five-furlong track and no turf course.

Final applications are due by Nov. 15.

• Jockey David Amiss and trainer Jay Bernardini won seasonal honors at Suffolk Downs for the first time, and Frank Bertolino's perennial powerhouse Monarch Stable notched its fourth consecutive owners’ title at the conclusion of what is likely the last meet.

Amiss, a finalist for the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, battled with second-place rider Dyn Panell throughout the season and didn't secure the riding title until closing day. He visited the winner's circle 62 times and enjoyed a 21 percent win percentage. Bernardini, who was voted the region's outstanding trainer by the New England Turf Writers Association in 2012, took his first title with 58 wins and was second in the owners' standings with 11 scores. Monarch Stable horses won 21 times.

Ontrack handle for the 64 days was $4,483,453 for a daily average of $70,054, up 3.8 percent over 2013 .

All-sources handle was $44,137,501, down 5.6 peercent from last year's meet.

The track offers free admission and does not track daily attendance, though 9,153 were counted in attendance for closing day.

Bobby Burgess More than 1 year ago
Congratulations David Amiss