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Link to Messenger Press

DATE POSTED: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 12:14 PM EDT
By Jennifer Kohlhepp, Managing Editor
Messenger Press

The 900 acres that were once populated by mares and foals that won racing classics are now empty. The stallion stalls are bare.

With the passing of founder William J. Perretti earlier this year, the era of one of harness racing’s most successful breeding farms — Perretti Farms — has come to a close.

”My dad passed away in March and the No. 1 breeding and equine facility in the state of New Jersey is closed,” Anthony Perretti said.

Parcels of the preserved farmland are likely to be sold in the coming months. Offers have been made on certain properties and the executors of the estate will continue to receive and review offers from any interested parties, according to Nicola Abrams, spokesperson for Perretti Farms.

Three things contributed to the demise of the operation — the unexpected passing of Mr. Perretti; the unexpected death of Rocknroll Hanover, the 2005 harness horse of the year, at age 11 after developing a gastric impaction in May 2013; and the economic state of the racing industry in New Jersey.

”Three years ago we had the best stallions in country; now this is what’s happened without support from the state,” Mr. Perretti said. “We cannot compete with Pennsylvania and New York.”

Perretti Farms was the largest horse farm in New Jersey specializing in the breeding and racing of standardbred horses. Founded in 1986 by noted automotive dealer and restaurateur William J Perretti, Perretti Farms was a full service standardbred nursery, standing stallions and raising yearlings each year to be offered at public auction at The Standardbred Horse Sale in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In addition, turnouts and individually owned standardbred mares were accepted and cared for by a world-class staff. In 2012, with the standardbred breeding business in New Jersey suffering through tough times, Perretti Farms decided to diversify into thoroughbred ownership, giving another racing game a chance.

”My dad started buying racehorses at the Meadowlands in the 70s,” Mr. Perretti said. “After a while, dad had fillies and mares. He came to Cream Ridge and saw this old potato farm and basically bought it and built everything you see there today.”

In its heyday the farm stood 150 stallions and had hundreds of mares and weanlings.

”At the end of May we would have over 400 horses on the grounds,” Mr. Perretti said.

The farm bred 3-4 Hambletonian contenders and winners and stood Hambletonian winners and world champions, Mr. Perretti said.

”We changed the whole industry,” Mr. Perretti said. “We were like ‘Little Kentucky’ in Cream Ridge, the capital of standardbred racing, and we had the best breeding program in country for the last 20 years.”

Mr. Perretti compared the state’s horse industry losing Perretti Farms to building Yankee Stadium and not having any New York players to play there.

Karyn Malinowski, director of the Rutgers Equine Science Center at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, said, “No doubt that Perretti Farms was the leading standardbred farm in the state of New Jersey. Not only were the animals and stallions standing there first class for the state of New Jersey, they were world class. Perretti Farms was a worldwide leader in the harness racing industry and we were fortunate that they were located here in New Jersey. Prestige came with it.”

The loss is going to have an impact on the breeding portion of horseracing in New Jersey, according to Ms. Malinwoski.

”It’s not the start and not the end of it all,” Tom Luchento, president of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey, said.

He said he’s quite disappointed that New Jersey did not get involved in alternative gaming when the state’s horse industry started calling for it years ago. New Jersey horsemen and women have been pushing for the placement of slot machines at racetracks since New York and Pennsylvania racetracks had them installed. In June, Assemblyman Ron Dancer introduced legislation that would authorize slot machine gambling to be conducted at horse racetracks in a mutually beneficial agreement with the casinos (racinos) that dedicates the state’s share of revenues for open space preservation.

”Slot machines at the state’s racetracks will capture the flow of people leaving New Jersey for the neighboring racinos in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, and increase revenues for the tracks and casinos,” said Dancer. “On top of that, the slots will provide a much-needed source of funds from the state’s share to protect open space from development, while providing funds to develop parks.”

Implementation of the bill will require an amendment to the State Constitution, and Assemblyman Dancer has introduced ACR-152 that proposes the amendment allowing the Legislative action specified in A-3194.

Mr. Luchento is also calling for a casino at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford.
”What happens if the Meadowlands gets a casino is the money given to the horseracing industry trickles down to green acres, open space and the infrastructure of agriculture in our state,” Mr. Luchento said. “Fourteen thousand jobs would be lost if the industry is closed.”

Mr. Luchento said the state would put a referendum out to the people in 2015 on whether New Jersey should have gaming outside of Atlantic City.

”If we were to get a casino at the Meadowlands it helps an industry as strong as ours, which is not restricted just to people racing horses but open to veterinarians, blacksmiths, farriers, and the farmers who raise oats, feed and grain. I don’t think people understand how big this industry is. For example, when a farm like Perretti Farms leaves, I assume if it wasn’t preserved open space, the land would go to builders with concrete and blacktop instead of green grass and animals. People in cities don’t understand what green acres and open space mean to them and there’s money there dedicated to park systems and things they have that help them immensely in parks and recreation. That’s what I’m talking about, a casino in the Meadowlands helps the horse industry in the state of New Jersey that has a trickle down effect to all of those people.”

Mr. Luchento also said the horse industry would collapse if stallions like those that once lived at Perretti Farms continue to leave the state.

“No breeding, no foals, and no horses to race,” he said. “The farms who breed, once they leave, the farms supporting them they fold up too because they have no reason to go on. Then those farms go into sale and we lose more open space green acres. That hurts the infrastructure. How many houses and how much of a population can you have?”

Mr. Luchento said he is cautiously optimistic about the state of the horse industry in New Jersey.

”I think if the Meadlowlands obtains a casino and the horse industry gets a decent amount of money to run and to run all its counterparts, that would be the only way,” he said. “Percentage-wise, I think we would need 15-18 percent and the owner of the casino could share the other 80 percent and do what it wants with it — send it to Atlantic City — but know every dollar given to our industry produces jobs, open space, green acres, jumping horse people, handicapped riders, and programs like the Standardbred Retirement Foundation, which find homes for the horses that can’t race. We just can’t throw them away. Money should also be dedicated to people in state who really need it — the elderly, the sick, whoever needs money the most would get it. It shouldn’t go into state coffers and get lost.”

Mr. Perretti, who is still active in New Jersey’s horse industry as a member of the Hambletonian Society board and as a racehorse owner, also supports a 2015 referendum that would ask voters to expand gaming in the state.

”Especially to the Meadowlands,” he said. “If that gets instated then the horse industry would again flourish like when the Meadowlands first opened. It could change everything and re-establish breeding in the state.”

However, as of now, most of the mares and foals from Perretti Farms were sold at auction and 29-year-old Matt’s Scooter, the stallion who has contributed so much to the sport and made his home at Perretti Farm for 25 years, died June 30. Ms. Abrams also said stallions Lucky Chucky and Muscles Yankee are now in New York in the New York Sire Stakes Program.

Meanwhile, the closing of Perretti Farms offers a rare opportunity for someone in the horse industry to acquire the No. 1 breeding and equine facility in New Jersey. The main farm consists of 393 acres in three parcels.

The estate home is custom built with a wraparound porch, guest quarters, pool house and all the amenities. This property also includes the arena barn, a premier equine facility with professional indoor riding arena, 40 stalls, viewing lounge and conference room upstairs.

The second property includes the main barn with stallion quarters, 40 additional stalls, wash stalls, two in-house labs, offices in the front and an apartment on the second floor. There are two equicisers; each located within close proximity to the main and arena barns.

The third parcel consists of 73 acres. The mid-sized farm is complete with numerous paddocks and outbuildings, all with automatic waterers, and expansive fields to suit any equine needs and housing for farm manager and full staff.

The yearling farm is made up of two separate parcels consisting of 186 acres and 170 acres with two barn facilities totaling 60 stalls. This property can accommodate a home on either parcel or one on each plus additional agriculture labor housing.

For further information or to arrange a visit to the farm, call 609-259-7555 or email

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