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Group seeks to bring racing back to Suffolk Downs in 2015

Horses rounded the track at Suffolk Downs last year.
Horses rounded the track at Suffolk Downs last year.(Globe File)

A group representing horse owners and trainers at Suffolk Downs made it official Wednesday afternoon: They will attempt next year to bring thoroughbred horse racing back to the storied track.

Their proposal, filed with the state Gaming Commission, falls far short of guaranteeing horse racing at Suffolk Downs in 2015, but it does stave off a sure end to racing there, at least for now.

The New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents about 900 owners and trainers, hand-delivered a placeholder application that signifies their interest without providing the specifics of their plan, just a few hours before the deadline for filing such proposals.

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The gambling commission, in an effort to keep thoroughbred horse racing going in New England, invited potential operators of Suffolk Downs to submit applications containing virtually no details on race plans in order to meet the deadline and allow more time for plans to come together.

RELATED: Six bold plans for the future of Suffolk Downs

Anthony Spadea, president of the horsemen’s association, said the group is in discussions with the management of Suffolk Downs about leasing the racetrack.

“At this stage, the discussions are preliminary, so we need more time before a final and detailed application can be submitted,” Spadea said in a statement.

“Our organization is grateful to the Gaming Commission for allowing placeholder applications,” he added.

The last day of racing at Suffolk Downs in East Boston is now set for Saturday, the end of the 2014 season.

Simulcasts at the track will continue through December.

The owners of the track, first opened in the 1930s, say they are not interested in running what has become a money-losing operation next year.

Those owners had pinned their hopes on being awarded the Greater Boston casino license, but on Sept. 16 the Gaming Commission rejected a proposal from Mohegan Sun that would have maintained racing at the track in favor of a casino proposal from Wynn Resorts, to be located on the Mysic River waterfront in the city of Everett.

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George Carney, owner of Rayham Park, a former dog-racing track, filed a similar placeholder application Tuesday to run thoroughbred horse racing at the Brockton Fairground in 2015.

A third filing was made Wednesday by Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville, which runs harness racing, using standardbred, rather than thoroughbred, horses.

Plainridge Racecourse’s intention to continue harness racing in 2015 was never in any serious doubt.

Plainridge Racecourse is the site of a slot machine parlor, under construction after a license was approved by the gambling commission this year. It is expected to open as early as next summer, presuming that the state casino law is not repealed by voters in a statewide referendum on Nov. 4.

Even with Wednesday’s deadline met, the horsemen and Carney face some urgency in detailing their plans.

By law, the Gaming Commission must schedule public hearings on the proposals and grant or deny each application by Nov. 15.

The commission released a statement Wednesday saying that it could demonstrate some flexibility with the Nov. 15 deadline, and that it may allow the applicants to amend their plans after approval.

“The Gaming Commission is fully committed to using all of its authority to help find a strategy for sustaining the racing industry,” said Stephen P. Crosby, the commission’s chairman.


Sean P. Murphy can be reached at smurphy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphyboston.

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