Rockingham Park is switching from Thoroughbred to harness racing in 2003 after the track and horsemen could not reach an agreement concerning purse structure. The Salem, N.H. track will conduct a summer harness meet from May 24 through Sept. 1, with racing four nights per week. Harness racing has not been conducted at Rockingham since June 1980 when a fire destroyed the clubhouse and grandstand and closed the track for four years."Rockingham attempted to structure an agreement with the Thoroughbred horsemen on dates for the next two years, but an agreement could not be reached," said Ed Callahan, vice president and general manager of Rockingham. "Our choice was to close or to seek a harness license, which under New Hampshire law, were our only two alternatives."According to Lynne Snierson, publicity director at Rockingham, the track offered horsemen a 7.4% increase over last year's daily purse structure of $94,800. The horsemen were asking for a 20% increase over last year.Manford Roos, president of the New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said area horsemen would work with Suffolk Downs in 2003 to possibly run a spring or summer meet.
Rockingham Ventures, owners of Rockingham Park, signed a development agreement with a Massachusetts development company last month while agreeing to race at least two more years while possible development plans for the 170-acre property were considered.