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Track, horsemen agree

Pact clears way for 80 Suffolk dates

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / March 5, 2011

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Suffolk Downs and the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association have agreed to terms that will allow racing to resume in May at the East Boston track.

The two-year agreement, announced yesterday by Suffolk, will mean a racing schedule of 80 days through Breeders’ Cup weekend in early November with a purse of $8.25 million ($103,125 per day). Revenue from simulcasting, which was curtailed the last few weeks during the dispute, will be shared equally by the horsemen and Suffolk Downs.

The number of racing dates is lower than the minimum of 100 required by a state statute, which must be modified and was a major bone of contention during the six weeks of talks.

With the agreement in place, the horsemen rescinded their ban on allowing simulcasting from tracks in New York. The blackout from other HBPA chapters in Oregon, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, and Oklahoma also will be lifted.

“We made the best deal we could,’’ Frank Frisoli, general counsel for the horsemen, said last night. “It reflects an equal share of the revenue, which is what we sought from the onset.’’

Frisoli said the horsemen fought for more dates at the same $8.25 million purse structure, but Suffolk officials would not compromise. “They made it clear that there was no deal unless we bent on that issue,’’ said Frisoli.

“We are gratified that the NEHBPA has agreed to fewer days for higher purses,’’ Suffolk chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said in a statement.

Frisoli said the talks were less acrimonious over the last few weeks, with the realization that failure to compromise would damage both sides.

“It was awful for our membership,’’ said Frisoli, who suggested that the sides form an equitable partnership, which was rejected. “But we were backed into a corner where we had no choice.’’

“We look forward to the 2011 racing season,’’ said Tuttle, who made it clear that expanded gaming remains part of the master plan for the track’s long-term health.

“This will keep the peace for at least two years,’’ said Frisoli. “We hope this is a start of a great relationship.’’

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.