- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - Horse owners and trainers are trying to keep races going at Suffolk Downs, New England’s last remaining thoroughbred track, which plans to stop live races Saturday.

The New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association filed an application for an annual state horse racing license by Wednesday’s deadline. Brockton Fairgrounds owner George Carney has also applied for a license to return races to the 5/8th mile track.

Anthony Spadea, the horsemen association’s president, said the group’s application is very much a work in progress as it is trying to work out a lease with Sterling Suffolk Racecourse LLC, the current owners of the nearly 80-year-old Boston track, which during its heyday hosted Seabiscuit and other premier horses.

“All the details have not been worked out. But Sterling Suffolk has been very cooperative,” he said. “We really believe that with their help, we’ll be able to accomplish this.”

Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer for Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, said the company is “definitely keeping an open mind” in talks with the horsemen. But, he stressed, the company has not made any financial commitments, has not sought to renew its own racing license and intends to host its final live races Oct. 4.

“We’re certainly willing to listen,” Tuttle said. “But, at the same time, we’re more mindful than anyone of the daunting economics of making that work.”

The company, which has investors like prominent casino developer Richard Fields, has said the track has lost money for years. It had hoped to revive its fortunes by getting state approval for a $1.1 billion Mohegan Sun casino adjacent to the track. But state regulators rejected that plan in September.

Carney, who also owns the simulcast betting facility Raynham Park, said his racing application was similarly a work in process.

Ideally, he wants to offer about 60 race days in the summer months, when Brockton’s annual fair takes place. The track hosted thoroughbred races for years from the 1940s through the 1970s, according to Carney. It last hosted races in 2001.

Penn National Gaming has also applied for a state license to operate harness racing next year at the Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville. The Wyomissing, Penn., gambling company is building a $225 million slot parlor facility adjacent to that track.

The state Gaming Commission, which approves horse racing licenses, says it will hold public hearings on the applications later this month. By law, the panel must decide on the applications by Nov. 15.

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