THA Board of Directors

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Alan Foreman

THA Chairman/CEO

Alan Foreman is widely recognized as one of American racing’s most influential individuals. For more than 35 years, Foreman has devoted his legal practice and energies towards protecting and defending the best interests of horsemen and the betterment of the racing industry in North America. A 1972 graduate of American University with honors and a 1975 graduate of the University Baltimore School of Law, he was a former Maryland Assistant Attorney General and counsel to the Maryland Racing Commission. Foreman is well-known for his representation of the Maryland Stewards in the infamous 1980 Preakness Stakes controversy involving Genuine Risk and Codex. He was a partner in the major Baltimore law firm Weinberg and Green (now Saul Ewing) before establishing his own law firm in 1991. Foreman is counsel to many racing industry and equine organizations. In addition to his law practice, he was the THA’s first Executive Director and now serves as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Foreman is the longest serving director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Vice-Chairman of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.  He is a frequent lecturer and has authored numerous articles. In 2012 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Foreman to the New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety. He co-authored its widely acclaimed Report, and its safety and welfare recommendations are being implemented in racing jurisdictions throughout North America. In 2014, he was appointed by Governor Cuomo to serve on a New York Task Force on Jockey Health and Safety. Foreman is a lifelong Maryland resident and lives in Pikesville, Maryland, with his wife, Randi. They have three sons.

Joseph Appelbaum

THA President, NYTHA President

Joseph Appelbaum, a longtime Thoroughbred owner and breeder, was elected President of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association in the fall of 2017 and President of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association in March 2018. He took over in both positions from Rick Violette Jr., who retired from the NYTHA Board of Directors but remains with the THA as Director Emeritus. Appelbaum, an avid handicapper who won the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Santa Anita Park in 2016, became an owner when he claimed a horse, and later joined forces with Carlos Morales to launch Off The Hook, a breeding, pinhooking, auction and racing operation with a farm in Ocala, Fla. Off The Hook also keeps mares in New York. Appelbaum, in his first winter as president of NYTHA, helped coordinate assistance for backstretch workers during two power outages at Belmont Park, and as President of the THA said he will work to build coalitions that will move the Thoroughbred industry forward.

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Salvatore M. DeBunda

THA Vice President, PTHA President

Sal DeBunda, born in Philadelphia, is a major Thoroughbred horse owner and breeder in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The President of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association at Parx, he is also a member of the Board of Directors and President of the Longport Seaview Condo Association, and a member of the Board of Directors and Chairman of the Philly Pops. An attorney at Archer & Greiner with more than 40 years’ experience, he represents many of the firm’s corporate, healthcare and media clients, as well as, significant private and family-owned companies, non-profit organizations, and certain horse ownership, racing interest and trade associations. As counsel for the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, DeBunda was the primary drafter of the horsemen’s sections of the Pennsylvania Slot Bill, signed in July, 2004. He founded the television show called, “Let’s Go Racing” in 1992, and is currently Executive Producer of the program, which appears weekly on Comcast Sportsnet, a cable television channel serving the Delaware Valley Region.

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David G. Richardson

THA Vice President, MTHA Executive Director

Possessing the rare combination of vigorous exuberance and energy and a wealth of thoroughbred racing-related professional experience, Richardson became MTHA’s Executive Director in 2011.

Richardson’s background centers around advertising, marketing and creative design. He served as partner for 16 years at David Hayden Advertising in Upperco, Maryland servicing numerous national racing-related clients such as Northview Stallion Station, Turfway Park, Maryland Million and NTRA, among many others.

In addition, Richardson served as the Marketing Director for the highly successful MATCH Thoroughbred Championship Series, whose innovative marketing campaigns received many industry accolades. Richardson’s modern thinking and progressive approach to problem solving is coupled with a wealth of legislative experience as well, having served multiple terms as an elected municipal councilman in Maryland and a past Secretary / Treasurer of the Maryland Municipal League.

Richardson’s impact on Maryland racing has been significant in his tenure with MTHA. Major accomplishments include the creation from scratch of the industry-renowened Horsemen’s Health System, the development of the Beyond The Wire Throughbred aftercare program, the establishment of one of the state of Maryland’s most powerful and influential Political Action Committees, vast backstretch community improvements, improved relations with industry partners, a top-to-bottom overhaul and modernization of the MTHA, and producing one of the best communications efforts in the racing industry.

Along with his wife Nicole, who serves as the Director of Finance for the Maryland Horse Breeders’ Association, Richardson is the owner/operator of Greenmount Bowl, a very successful community duckpin and tenpin bowling alley in Hampstead, MD. Richardson also founded Greenmount OTB which is located next door to the bowling center which was authorized by the Maryland General Assembly to apply for a bricks and motor sports betting license in late 2021.

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Bessie Gruwell

THA Secretary, DTHA Executive Director

Bessie Gruwell was born into the racing industry and obtained her trainer’s license at the age of 18. She began training horses full-time when her father Tom Lovelace passed away suddenly in 1983. Gruwell ran a successful racing stable for 22 years, winning nearly 400 races in the Mid-Atlantic region.  Gruwell served as President of the DTHA from 1998 until 2005, when she accepted the position of Executive Director.

Will Alempijevic

NYTHA Executive Director

Will Alempijevic was named Executive Director of the NYTHA in February of 2020. A member of the New York Racing Association team since November of 2015, Alempijevic was the Director of Business Development before being promoted to Director of Guest Services. He most recently was named Director of Racing Analytics, where he focused on horse safety and welfare initiatives, as well as compiling and analyzing racing office data to help inform the department’s business decisions. Prior to coming to New York, Alempijevic was with Portland Meadows racetrack in Portland, Oregon, for nine years, starting as Director of Wagering and Guest Services and working his way up to General Manager in January of 2008, a position he held for more than seven years. Alempijevic, a graduate of Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario with a degree in economics with financial management, started his racing career as OTB Guest Services Manager at Flamboro Downs, a harness track in Ontario, and also worked at Western Fair Raceway before making the switch to Thoroughbred racing. In addition to his experience on the frontside of the racetrack, Alempijevic has owned race horses since 2004, and is currently licensed as a Standardbred owner in New York. Primarily involved in harness racing, he has owned two Thoroughbreds as well and celebrated a win at Del Mar with trainer Bill Spawr. His stable currently consists of two harness horses based in Ontario. Alempijevic also serves on the Board of the Backstretch Employee Service Team.

Joe Orseno

Florida THA President

Joe Orseno has been a member of the FTHA Board of Directors for five years. Orseno is interim President and serves as Chairman of the Backstretch Committee, as well as serving on the Executive, Aftercare and Benevolence Committees.

Orseno grew up in Philadelphia and has always loved sports. He played football, basketball and baseball in high school. His dad loved going to the track and handicapping races. Orseno often tagged along. He started parking cars at Cinelli’s restaurant across the street from Garden State Park Racetrack as a way to make cash during high school. From there, Orseno started working around the barns on weekends.

Orseno started training horses in 1977. In 1997, be became the private trainer for Frank Stronach. In 2000, Orseno won the Preakness with Red Bullet. Later that year, he won two consecutive races on the Breeders’ Cup card. He won the Juvenile with Macho Uno and followed that up with Perfect Sting, the winner of the Filly and Mare Turf. Orseno has amassed over $32 million in earnings, boasting 34 graded stakes wins, 11 of which were Grade I.

Orseno has earned leading trainer titles five different times. One of the highlights of his career was winning five races on a single card at Gulfstream Park. In 2000, he was honored by NY Turf Writers with the C.V. Whitney Achievement Award. Orseno says Macho Uno was the best horse he has trained; Perfect Sting was his personal favorite.

Orseno first became involved in trainers’ meetings at the racetrack to have a voice in improving track safety. He is now very excited to work with the board. He credits the FTHA with getting the ball rolling in the right direction to make the racetrack safer and the turf course better. Orseno’s wife, Michelle, is a veterinarian. They have one daughter, Aly. Orseno also has a daughter and son, Shannin and Joseph, and three grandchildren.

 

Jeffrey Matty Jr.

PTHA Executive Director

Jeffrey Matty Jr., who took over as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Jan. 1, 2022, upon the retirement of Mike Ballezzi, brings a diverse range of experience to the position, including serving as Racing Manager for Besecker Racing Stable, an Assistant Stakes Coordinator at Monmouth Park, and a racing official with Parx Racing.

Matty served as Racing Manager for Besecker Racing Stable in King of Prussia, Pa., since 2014. In that capacity, he managed more than 100 horses at any given time that were part of the stable’s portfolio, overseeing and managing results that consisted of more than 750 wins and $16.5 million in earnings. He also advised trainers on entries, nominations, and campaign outlooks, as well as assisted with purchasing broodmares, yearlings and 2-year-olds in training. In December 2019, he organized and executed the full Besecker dispersal at the Fasig-Tipton sale.

His first job in racing was as a racing official at Parx, where he worked for two summers under Sal Sinatra and under the mentorship of Albert Ott. Matty then went on to work for two summers as an Assistant Stakes Coordinator at Monmouth. Matty is a graduate of Saint Joseph’s University, where he earned dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Management and Sports Marketing.

Andy Belfiore

Florida THA Executive Director

A native of Massachusetts, Andy Belfiore grew up riding show horses. She started her career in racing on the backstretch at Belmont Park, working as a hotwalker, groom and exercise rider, before joining the Rick Violette stable as assistant trainer. After six years as Violette’s assistant, she moved to the frontside at the track, and spent five years in the communications and marketing departments at NYRA.

Belfiore left NYRA to take the post as editor in chief at the Thoroughbred Daily News. During her tenure, the TDN grew from a four-page publication with just a few hundred subscribers to a leader in the Thoroughbred industry with a website that gets more than 110,000 hits a month from 118 countries and territories. Named Director of Communications for NYTHA in December, 2011, and Executive Director in September, 2015, she was instrumental in the creation of the TAKE2 and TAKE THE LEAD Program and is Executive Director of the TAKE2 organization.

She served as a consultant for NYTHA and as Project Manager for the national Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the Mid-Atlantic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities from 2019-21. In the fall of 2021, she was named the Executive Director of the Florida Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
Belfiore is married to DRF‘s Michael Welsch.

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Timothy L. Keefe

MTHA President

Tim Keefe, one of Maryland’s most successful trainers, has been a member of the MTHA board since 2005. He launched his training career in 1993 and has conditioned the stakes winners Eighttofasttocatch, Celtic Innis, Red’s Round Table, Frisky Thunder, Anarex and Goferitstutz. He trains 35 horses at Laurel Park for a dozen different owners. Keefe grew up in Silver Spring and was involved with horses from an early age. An A-rated rider in Pony Club, he had an after-school job at a riding stable at age 13, and at 18 he went to work as an exercise rider for the late trainer Jack Mobberley. Keefe also rode in amateur flat races for the trainer Janet Elliot and helped prepare young race horses for Billy Gilbert, now his father-in-law. In 1987, Keefe became one of the first beneficiaries of the Maryland Thoroughbred Scholarship Fund. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in business. Keefe and his wife, Rumsey, an accomplished three-day-event rider, have four children: Ryan, Colby, Liam and Carlin. They own the 27-acre Avalon Farm in Montgomery County. An accomplished triathlete, Keefe serves as president of the Maryland Horsemen’s Assistance Fund and vice president of Maryland Million Ltd. and is chairman of the MTHA’s Health and Welfare Committee.

Chris Block

ITHA President

Chris Block was elected President of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association in the fall of 2021 and took over Jan. 1, 2022, from Mike Campbell.

Block, who has been active as a horsemen’s advocate and in legislative issues in Illinois for many years, is from a family of Thoroughbred breeders and owners who have played a major role in the state’s racing industry. As a trainer, he is a multiple stakes winner with more than 1,300 victories through early 2022, and his horses have earned more than $46 million.

                                                      Dennis Drazin

NJTHA President

Rumson, N.J., native Dennis Drazin serves as President of the law firm Drazin and Warshaw and has been an active Thoroughbred breeder in New Jersey for about 30 years. In the 1990s, Drazin became actively involved in the racing industry and has been the architect of many of the legislative initiatives  that have protected and advanced the racing industry in the state.

Drazin was a member of the New Jersey Racing Commission and resigned to lead the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association in acquiring the lease for Monmouth Park from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, a move that basically saved the track from closure. He currently serves as Chairman of Chief Executive Officer of Darby Development, the company that operates Monmouth. He is actively involved in the NJTHA, and before joining the NJRC served as the organization’s general counsel.

Drazin is primarily responsible, on behalf of the NJTHA, for developing a sports betting venue at Monmouth. He previously was very active in the lead-up to the United States Supreme Court decision in 2018 that determined PASPA was unconstitutional. Drazin also is a long-time advocate for preservation of open space; he regularly trumpeted the value of the horseracing and breeding industry in New Jersey to protection of open space.

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Michael Musto

NJTHA Executive Director

Mike Musto was born and raised in West Long Branch, New Jersey, a mile away from Monmouth Park.  His passion for the racing industry was ingrained when he began working with his father, assisting in the running of four tack shops at Monmouth Park, Atlantic City, Garden State and Meadowlands. In 1979, he secured a position as the Assistant Bookkeeper at Meadowlands and in 1985 became the Horsemen’s Bookkeeper at Garden State Park.  Two years later, Musto was hired by Sam Fieramosca as an assistant to the then New Jersey HBPA, a position he held until Fieramosca’s retirement in October 1999. He was promoted to Executive Director of the NJTHA at that time. During his tenure as the Executive Director, Musto has been instrumental in developing and overseeing one of the industry’s only worker’s compensation program covering all backstretch stable employees as well as jockeys, and he continues to maintain horsemen’s programs and services such as a medical, benevolence, appreciation events and other backstretch services to assist the hard-working men and women in the racing industry.

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Scott Peck

DTHA President

Scott Peck has been an owner/trainer since 1985 and has continuously stabled his horses at Delaware Park since then. He is a long-time Delaware resident and owns a farm in Harbeson, where his retired racehorses reside. Peck has lived and worked in Lewes, Del., with a demanding career as a Ship Pilot on the Delaware River and C&D Canal. Peck had previously served on the DTHA Board of Directors from 1995-2010 and as President from 2005-2010. He was re-elected as President in September 2016 and with his previous experiences is committed to navigate through what our industry is facing in the future.

IN MEMORIAM

Rick Violette (2018)

NYTHA and THA President

Rick Violette Jr., a successful Thoroughbred trainer and President of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association since 2008, died in October 2018 after a battle with cancer. He was a driving force for creation of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and served as its long-time President.

Violette got his start in the equine industry showing hunters and jumpers on the East Coast circuit. He also galloped racehorses part time before opting to make a career at the racetrack. A graduate of Lowell University in his native Massachusetts, Violette began working on the backstretch at Suffolk Downs. He was assistant trainer to Emile Allain at Woodbine for two years before moving to New York to take the job as assistant to David Whiteley. He started his own public stable in 1983.

Top horses developed by Violette include graded-stakes winners Citadeed, Coosaragga, Dream Rush, Diversify, Free of Love, Gitchee Goomie, High Finance, Man from Wicklow, March Magic, Marquette, Miss Huff n’ Puff, Must Be War, Nijinsky’s Gold, One and Twenty, Outperformance, Read the Footnotes, Samraat, Savedbythelight, Spurious Precision, Summer Doldroms, Upon My Soul, Upstart and Worstcasescenario.

Violette for two decades served as President of NYTHA and the THA and has held the post as chairman of the New York Jockey Injury Compensation Fund for more than a decade. He was widely recognized for his work in leading NYTHA through the bankruptcy and reorganization of NYRA; negotiating the horsemen’s share of VLT revenues and backstretch improvements at the NYRA tracks; the reorganization and strengthening of the Backstretch Employee Service Team; and acquiring state of the art equipment for the New York Drug Testing and Research Program. Violette was also a staunch advocate of equine welfare and safety, and founded the TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program and TAKE THE LEAD Thoroughbred Retirement Program.

John Forbes (2021)

NJTHA President

John Forbes, one of the founders of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and a longtime advocate for horsemen’s rights, died in January 2021.

Forbes came from a racing family. Both his parents trained horses, and his mother, Nancy Shakespeare Forbes, was the third woman ever to earn a trainer’s license in the U.S.  At 24, Forbes went to work for John Tammaro Sr. in Maryland.  Three years later, he captured his first race with Town House, a 5-year-old maiden, at Lincoln Downs in Rhode Island.

In 1995, he formed a limited partnership that raised $1.95 million to purchase yearlings and race them through 1998. Among those purchased was graded stakes winner Tale of the Cat, who later sold for $11.7 million. Forbes has been Monmouth’s leading trainer on five occasions and is the all-time winningest trainer in Meadowlands history.

Forbes won more than 2,100 races in his career. The 2006 recipient of the Buddy Raines Distinguished Achievement Award, Forbes has served as president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association since 2010.