04/12/2006 12:00AM

Two leaving HBPA posts


John Roark, the president of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and Tom Metzen Sr., the association's central region vice president, resigned on Wednesday in order to pursue the formation of a company that will seek simulcasting contracts for U.S. races in foreign countries.

Roark, who has been the president of the national horsemen's association since 2001, said the company will be called International Horsemen's Wagering Assurance Group and will be licensed in Curacao, a Dutch protectorate in the Caribbean. The company will include Metzen and his son, Tom Metzen Jr., as officers.

According to Roark, the company will seek contracts with offtrack wagering sites in the Caribbean, South America, and Central America that currently book bets on U.S. horse races. The contracts will require that the companies' bets be commingled into U.S. pools.

"We're going after the pirates that don't give one cent to the racing industry right now," Roark said.

Roark has been the point man within the horsemen's association on a project exploring the establishment of an offshore wagering hub that would be owned by horse owners and trainers. The horsemen's group began looking at the concept several years ago as a way to compete with rebate shops and offshore bookmakers that are thought to be highly popular among existing horseplayers.

Remi Bellocq, the executive director of the horsemen's association, said Roark and Metzen had volunteered their resignations because of a potential conflict of interest.

"The company they are talking about could have a relationship with the National HBPA at some point in the future," Bellocq said. "It's too close to the industry for them to wear both hats."

As the result of the Wednesday resignations, Joe Santanna, the association's secretary and treasurer, will assume the post of interim president. A special election will be held in July to name a new president, Bellocq said.