Gov. Chris Christie

Gov. Chris Christie

AP Photo

NJ Breeders Challenge Purse Fund Veto, Splits

An appeal has been filed by the Thoroughbred Breeders Association of New Jersey.

The Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association of New Jersey has filed an appeal in connection with Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a decision by the New Jersey Racing Commission to award $15 million in purse supplements to four racetracks.

It also is challenging the action of the NJRC, which denied a TBANJ request for funding for the New Jersey-bred program.

The TBANJ said Aug. 22 it filed the appeal with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, challenging the action taken by Christie July 1.

As part of legislation passed earlier this year, the horse racing industry was to get $30 million over the next three years to supplement purses during a transition from state operation of tracks to private ownership. The NJRC in June heard requests for the funds, including one from the TBANJ for New Jersey-bred events.

The TBANJ said it requested $10 million: $3 million for a 25% purse enhancement for New Jersey-bred horses; $2.5 million for bonuses for New Jersey-bred horses that compete in open company; $1 million for the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival, a series of championship-style stakes at Monmouth Park; $2 million for New Jersey-bred stakes; and $1.5 million to enhance purses so a portion of the breeders’ awards can be paid directly from the purse account in a timely fashion.

At its June 29 meeting the NJRC voted to distribute this year’s $15 million equally between Thoroughbred and Standardbred interests: $2.5 million to Monmouth; $2.5 million to Meadowlands for Thoroughbred purses, most likely at Monmouth; $2.5 million to Atlantic City Race Course; $2.5 to Freehold Raceway, a harness track; and $5 million to Meadowlands for harness purses.

Christie, who repeatedly said racing will no longer receive any purse supplements but signed off on the legislation, vetoed the NJRC’s action.

The TBANJ said it believes the action is “unconstitutional as well as in violation of the separation of powers doctrine.” It also believes the veto “was exercised in an arbitrary and capricious manner.”

As for the NJRC, the breeders’ organization said its actions also were arbitrary and capricious by not granting any funding to the TBANJ.

“The purpose to this litigation is to clarify the racing commission’s award of funds for New Jersey-bred Thoroughbred horse racing and to seek a resolution with the New Jersey Racing Commission that will encourage the growth and continuation of this industry,” Michael Schottland, an attorney who filed the action on behalf of the TBANJ, said in a statement.

The legal move comes as legislators in New Jersey are beginning to rethink Christie’s decision to deny horse racing any financial assistance as it transitions from New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority operation to private lessees. Monmouth and Meadowlands currently are being operated jointly by the NJSEA and lessees Morris Bailey and Jeff Gural, respectively.

Freehold, owned by Penn National Gaming Inc., already has cut purses for its summer/fall meet because it didn’t receive the $2.5 million ordered by the NJRC. ACRC has said the funds would allow it to offer more live racing dates.