Application for Horsemen-Owned Racetrack Filed

A plan for a Thoroughbred racetrack to be owned by horse owners has been floated in Pennsylvania, and the group awaits a hearing before the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission.

Horsemen's Park, which already has signed a two-year contract with the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, plans a minimum of 50 days of racing each year in Philadelphia or one of its suburbs. Real-estate companies have been hired to help find a 70-acre to 100-acre site.

"The park will be formed and owned by horse owners, directly benefiting all participants in the racing industry--owners, trainers, breeders, and backstretch employees," said Sal DeBunda, a PTHA director who heads the Horsemen's Park initiative. "This unprecedented move would create a harmonious atmosphere with horsemen to ensure the continuation of live racing in the commonwealth."

The PTHA represents horsemen at Philadelphia Park, which operates off-track betting parlors in southeast Pennsylvania and also filed an application for a racetrack license in Chester, Pa., not from Philadelphia. That proposed track is called Seaport Park. Meanwhile, another group wants to build a harness track, called Chester Downs and Marina, in the same city.

In Erie in northwest Pennsylvania, MTR Gaming was granted a license to operate a Thoroughbred track. Also, a group wants to operate another harness track in southwest Pennsylvania in the market area of The Meadows.

The flurry of racetrack applications apparently are tied to the prospect of slot-machine gaming, though officials have said slot machines aren't necessary for the projects to move forward.

Other members of the Horsemen's Park team are Charles Murray, a horse owner and retired chief executive officer of Actium Corp. in Pennsylvania, and Harriette Owens-Waldron, a horse owner and co-president of Verispan in Pennsylvania.

In a release, DeBunda said Horsemen's Park has the support of the PTHA.