Negotiations between the New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Rockingham Park continued into the new year in the wake of a simulcasting dispute that has spilled over state borders.
For the second time in as many years, Suffolk Downs has increased the minimum purses for stakes. And in another Massachusetts development, the Brockton Fair has expressed an interest in live racing once again.
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.
Live Thoroughbred racing at Rockingham Park may be a thing of the past, but there could be racing of another breed at the New Hampshire track in 2003.
Rockingham Park plans to close in a few years in what would mark the end of the state's first and only horse racing track. The owners of the 96-year-old track want to develop the 170-acre property in Salem for retail, office and residential use.
Racing will continue at Rockingham Park for at least two more years while the track works with a Massachusetts development company and the city of Salem on plans to develop the 170-acre property.
New England's Jim Greene and Shirley Edwards, founders and mainstays of the "Eighth Pole" have been named winners of the 2002 Dogwood Dominion Award, presented annually to an unsung hero in the Thoroughbred industry.
Del Mar Show scored an easy 1 3/4-length victory under Jerry Bailey in Saturday's $200,000 New Hampshire Sweepstakes Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Rockingham Park. The Bill Mott trainee completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.51 on the turf course labeled "good."
Having failed to reach an agreement with Suffolk Downs and the New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association on legislated revenue payments, Brockton Fair has scrapped its nine-day live meet this year.
Fourteen stakes, including the grade III New Hampshire Sweepstakes for 3-year-olds and up on the turf, will highlight the 2002 season at Rockingham Park.
Racing could cease at New Hampshire's Rockingham Park this year because a bill that would have allowed video lottery terminals at the Salem facility is dead.
In what is believed to be the first suspension in the country for a positive test for the drug benzylpiperazine, New England trainer Tammi Piermarini was suspended Tuesday until Jan. 10, 2002. The Suffolk Downs board of stewards also fined her $500 and took away first-place purse money won by Dixie Draw Oct. 6 at the Masschusetts track.
Hap retained his unblemished record for the current year, drawing off to win the $200,000 New Hampshire Sweepstakes Handicap (gr. IIIT) by seven lengths on Saturday at Rockingham Park.
Following four hours of intense discussion early Sunday morning, Rockingham Park management and the New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association reached a two-year agreement on a contract.
The New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association was expected to withhold permission for Rockingham Park to send its live signal to other wagering facilities effective Wednesday. The move comes in response to an impasse in the group's negotiations with track management over simulcasting revenue splits.
Normally, the sounds of thunder cascading down the stretch of the two New England major thoroughbred tracks -- Suffolk Downs and Rockingham Park emanate from horses. Now, the thunderclaps are coming from New England horsemen, who say they need a bigger share of the simulcasting pie to survive.
A former leading owner at Rockingham Park has pled guilty to federal charges of embezzlement and tax evasion. Paul R. Blanchette will be sentenced in March and is expected to serve 57 months in prison on the federal charges, following a plea agreement reached since his arrest last April. He is also expected to change his plea to guilty on the state charges he is facing -- more than 100 counts of larceny -- when he returns to court this month. Blanchett is currently lodged in a Rhode Island federal prison.
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