07/19/2017 8:09PM

Stronach Group in talks to partner on Massachusetts race meet


The top racing official of The Stronach Group is scheduled to meet on Monday with the owner of two racetrack properties in the Boston area to discuss the possibility of partnering on a Thoroughbred meet at one of the tracks, the official said on Wednesday.

Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of the racing division of The Stronach Group, said that the meeting with George Carney, the owner of Raynham Park and Brockton Fairgrounds, is the continuation of several “preliminary discussions” between the two parties over the phone. Ritvo said that the Monday meeting will focus on the possibility of holding a Thoroughbred meet either at Raynham, a defunct dog track, or Brockton, a fair property that last held Thoroughbred racing 15 years ago.

“We’re not going to go there and build a racetrack,” said Ritvo on Wednesday. “We’re looking to facilitate some sort of race meet at either of the two properties, through some kind of partnership.”

While the possible involvement of The Stronach Group has raised hopes among some horsemen in the state about the return of a summer-long meet to a Massachusetts racetrack, a partnership with Carney has also unnerved some horsemen’s representatives who are seeking to craft a public-private partnership with the state for a new equine center that would include a racetrack.

Over the past three years, the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has partnered with Suffolk Downs on a brief, six-day meet, partly to retain rights to offer full-card simulcasts year-round and to retain a share of money reserved for horsemen’s operations. Suffolk Downs announced that it was no longer interested in conducting a longer race meet after being passed over for a casino license in 2014, and the owners of the track recently reached an agreement to sell the 161-acre property to a development company.

Suffolk has agreed to hold a brief race meet again in 2018, but after that, it is uncertain where racing in Massachusetts will take place, or, for that matter, whether any Thoroughbred racing will be held in the state at all.

Raynham Park, located in the southeastern corner of Massachusetts, has not held a dog meet since dog racing was outlawed in the state by referendum in 2010. The track has a quarter-mile oval, and it has remained open as a simulcasting location.

Last year, Carney attempted to get approval from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for a race meet at Brockton, using a portion of the Race Horse Development Fund, which receives subsidies from casinos in the state. The proposal, which was made in consultation with horsemen who splintered from the New England HBPA, was rejected. Brockton has a five-furlong track.

Paul Umbrello, the executive director of the New England HBPA, said recently that the organization is skeptical that a proper race meet could be conducted at either facility. He also said that proposals to conduct racing at either of the two locations could endanger the group’s pursuit of the equine center, which is still in its formative stages. It is likely that the equine center would need funding guarantees from the state, perhaps in the form of bonds based on the flows into the Race Horse Development Fund.

Ritvo said that he also plans to speak with members of the gaming commission during his trip to Massachusetts. Ritvo is a native of the state, and he won more than 500 races at Suffolk as a jockey. He also met his wife, Kathy, a trainer, while based at the track.

“We know Boston is a huge market, and that it should be able to support racing and simulcasting,” Ritvo said. “Still, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. These are still very preliminary discussions.”