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Horsemen Support SBOANJ Efforts At Freehold

Published: August 30, 2012 4:09 pm ET

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More than 50 trainers and drivers filled the paddock lounge to listen to and support the efforts of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey to improve conditions at the Monmouth County racetrack at a meeting held on Thursday, August 30, 2012, opening day at Freehold Raceway.

“You need continuity; you need a place to race all year,” SBOANJ President Tom Luchento told Freehold’s horsemen. Ninety-two days this year didn’t work for us. While we’ve asked for 192 days in 2013, realistically, we are talking about around 120 dates.

“You need more dates to keep your horses racing, and you need more dates to qualify for our insurance plan,” Luchento explained. “We’ve lowered the percentage needed to qualify for our program from 51 to 31 per cent (of starts) in New Jersey. The date requests are due in October.

“We also want you to know that we will keep fighting for you and will monitor the conditions of both the track (racing surface) and the facility,” Luchento added. “I feel for their bottom line at Freehold, but I’m more concerned about your bottom line.”

“We need the additional days, and we need you to keep fighting for us,” members of the audience shouted out.

Twice Luchento asked the audience if they supported his efforts.

“I’ll take the lead, but I need you behind me,” Luchento said. The response was in the affirmative each time he asked.

The meeting was triggered by an exchange of comments last week when the SBOANJ leadership expressed concerned about the racing surface, especially as it appeared last spring before the track closed for the summer. Freehold unilaterally cancelled qualifiers for August 23 but subsequently rescheduled them for August 24.

The SBOANJ conditionally granted approval for simulcasting of the signal from Freehold for the month of September while the association, which represents drivers, trainers, owners, breeders and caretakers, monitors the conditions. Freehold agreed to review other facilities used by horsemen for which there were safety concerns.

Another point made by Luchento was the need to build out the off track wagering -- OTW -- licenses held by Freehold.

“The New Jersey Racing Commission gave them another six months,” he said. “But if they don’t build them, we’ll be in court. We’ll build them if they won’t,”

Luchento noted that he would also be enforcing a provision in the contract between the SBOANJ and Freehold which calls for “two races per day for New Jersey-sired horses…and one per week for New Jersey-owned horses.”

“We need to emulate the programs in neighboring states and increase protection for our New Jersey-bred and owned horses,” Luchento said.

He recommended that Freehold consider creating late closing series, especially for New Jersey horses, to help provide racing opportunities for local horsemen as well as facilitate filling races.


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