Bets on Foreman Horse racing: The national industry is counting on a local lawyer to find a way to capture the minds and hearts of an indifferent sporting public.

May 30, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Alan Foreman's father was an executive with a Fortune 500 company, not an owner or trainer of thoroughbreds. Foreman grew up in Baltimore, 15 minutes from Pimlico, but he was not a racing fan.

"I clearly came to racing as a lawyer," Foreman said.

And as a lawyer, Foreman, 48, rose steadily, through work in Maryland and then the region. Now he is a director of the organization trying to revitalize horse racing, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA).

Foreman, who still lives near Pimlico, has gained a reputation as a straight-shooter, consensus-builder and champion of common sense in an industry in which that has often been in short supply.

"Alan has made the transition from head of a regional organization to director of a national organization without missing a step," said D.G. Van Clief Jr., Breeders' Cup president and leading force behind the NTRA.

"He's now visible to the industry working at a national level. There's no question he's risen to the occasion."

The NTRA hopes to elevate racing to one of the country's top five sports. It began last month with the opening of a national office -- racing's version of a professional sports' league office -- headed by a commissioner and backed by the usually disparate segments of the industry.

By extensive advertising, marketing, a greater presence on TV, coordinating races, creating high-interest events, gaining corporate sponsors, educating fans and improving customer service, it hopes to attract the young sports fan who likes to gamble and have a good time.

Foreman said he believes the NTRA can succeed.

"I'm on a real high right now," he said. "I think we're in a new era."

But he acknowledged that advertising alone won't cure racing's ills.

"We can spend all the money we want on marketing, advertising, joint purchasing and everything else," Foreman said. "But if we don't work on improving the experience at the racetrack, it's money down the toilet."

In a recent interview at Pimlico, dressed as usual in a sharp suit and tie -- it's either that these days or a T-shirt promoting MATCH, Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships -- Foreman kept returning to "luck" and "fate" when describing his career in the racing game.

Rounding one corner only to spot a void around the next bend, Foreman -- ambitious, intelligent and articulate -- rushed to fill the gap.

"You might say he's been the right person in the right place at the right time," said Tim Capps, executive vice president of the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association.

"He's become one of the foremost experts in racing law. He's been at the origin of a lot of things."

After graduating in 1975 from the University of Baltimore Law School and working for four years as a lawyer, Foreman was approached about joining the state attorney general's office.

"I told them I would be interested if there was a significant and attractive position," Foreman said. "And the first question was, 'What do you know about horse racing?' "

Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel had just been prosecuted for mail fraud in connection with the sale of stock in Marlboro Race Course.

Foreseeing more problems on Maryland's racing horizon, the new attorney general, Steve Sachs, wanted a capable lawyer on board. Foreman accepted the assignment in late 1979.

"The day I went to work, Laurel Raceway, the little harness track, went belly up," Foreman said. "Joe Shamy and his wife had left the track the night before with tons of cash, and the track closed.

"There were purses unpaid, monies owed to the state of Maryland and to suppliers. It was just a horrendous fiasco. And it was dumped in my lap, first day I walked in."

During the next three years Foreman became immersed in one high-profile case after another: the reinstatement hearings of the jockeys convicted of race-fixing at Bowie in the St. Valentine's Day scandal, equine medication issues, Cowboy Jack Kaenel (the incredibly successful teen-age jockey who lied about his age and was riding at 15) and the infamous 1980 Preakness Codex-Genuine Risk controversy.

The connections of Genuine Risk appealed the Maryland stewards' decision not to disqualify Codex, the winner, for what on national television looked like contact between the horses.

Foreman defended the stewards, successfully, after producing head-on photographs from The Sun that showed no bump -- "the smoking gun, the kind of evidence you dream of," Foreman said.

Those photographs, and that case, began shaping Foreman's career.

"Luck is 90 percent of the game," he said. "I came at a very fortuitous time. Just by coincidence, I had Laurel Raceway. I had the St. Valentine's Day jockey scandal, which was covered nationwide.

"And I had the Preakness case, which was a dream case, an O.J. case."

Foreman became counsel to the Maryland thoroughbred and standardbred horsemen, as well as counsel to the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

He was the force behind the formation of a horsemen's group from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Illinois and, eventually, Delaware -- an influential group known as the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association -- a group that Foreman still heads.

And he has spearheaded such landmark issues as insurance for jockeys and backstretch workers, medication regulations and multi-state licensing for horsemen.

He founded MATCH, the innovative series of races throughout the mid-Atlantic region that coordinates stakes schedules and offers bonuses to trainers and owners.

"The guy's a star," said Wayne Wright, executive secretary of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "And now he's in the big leagues."

Pub Date: 5/30/98

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