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The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (PTHA) works hard to protect and provide for the Parx Racing horsemen through the guarantee of live racing, horsemen’s rights, health care and pension for horsemen, benevolence programs, and more.

 

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Board of Directors

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Board of Directors

The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (PTHA) Board of Directors is comprised of an eleven-member board, including one President, five Owner/Directors, and five Trainer/Directors. The terms for each member are in three-year increments, and the board members are decided through an election by owners and trainers of the PTHA. The most recent election was completed on December 31, 2019, and the new board members were announced on January 8, 2020.

Salvatore M. DeBunda, Esq., President

In the more than twenty-five years that I have been working for the PTHA, the biggest reward is being part of the passion and love that our horsemen bring to the sport of racing.

Salvatore DeBunda has served as President of the PTHA since 2010, and has been a PTHA Board member for over twenty years. Prior to his election as President, DeBunda served five terms as an Owner/Director, First Vice President, and Chairman of the Finance Committee. He was inducted into the Parx Racing Hall of Fame in 2013.

DeBunda was instrumental in writing and advocating the horsemen’s language for the legislation of Act 71, which allots a percentage of the slot machine revenue to the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Development Fund. The passage of the bill has allowed Parx Racing to lead the industry in providing pensions and medical benefits for trainers, health care for backstretch employees, a retirement program for its racehorses, backstretch renovations, and competitive purses.

The time DeBunda has spent on the PTHA Board and as President has been filled with aiding in additional improvements for horsemen, including the negotiation of a new live racing agreement, creation of the Horsemen’s Purchasing Association to provide feed and shavings at reduced prices, establishment of horsemen’s rights to equal treatment under the law, and renovation programs for both the backstretch and grandstand.

DeBunda is the co-founder and Executive Producer of Let’s Go Racing, a weekly television program on Comcast SportsNet, which provides banter between hosts, replays of races, and previews of major races at Parx Racing as well as premier stakes races around the world. The show celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2013.

DeBunda has owned and raced horses since 1988, and during those years has also been involved in breeding and pinhooking as well as racing partnerships. His horses primarily race under the name of Dun Roamin Farm, Inc.

A resident of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, DeBunda practices law in Philadelphia and is one of the shareholders of the law firm Archer & Greiner, P.C., successor to Pelino & Lentz, P.C., where he is the Co-Managing Partner of its Philadelphia office.

Jeffrey A. Matty, Executive Director, Owner/Director

 I don’t look at this position as a job, but as a responsibility—to do what’s best for horsemen day in and day out. 

Jeffrey A. Matty, Jr. will serve as the organization’s new Executive Director effective January 1, 2022.  Jeff 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 Racetrack, and a Racing Official with Parx Racing.

Matty will fill a vacancy left by Michael P. Ballezzi, who announced his retirement earlier this month after 25 years of leadership.   

“We are thrilled to have Jeffrey Matty joining the PTHA as our new executive director,” said Salvatore DeBunda, President of the PTHA’s Board of Directors.  “He brings to the position a clear commitment to advocating for horsemen and a significant amount of passion and energy for our sport.”

“I’m an avid fan of racing, and being born and raised in Bensalem, I fell in love with the sport at Philadelphia Park,” said Matty.  “I consider myself a Parx horseman, so in many ways, this is like returning home. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with and advocate for the owners and trainers who make up the PTHA.  I don’t look at this position as a job, but as a responsibility — to do what’s best for horsemen day in and day out.”  

Matty has served as Racing Manager for Besecker Racing Stable in King of Prussia, PA since 2014.  In that capacity, he managed more than one hundred 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 two-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 Racing, 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 Park Racetrack. Matty is a graduate of Saint Joseph’s University, where he earned dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Management and Sports Marketing,  

 

Steven A. Appel, DDS, First Vice President, Treasurer, Owner/Director

I am proud to have been a part of our success. But our work is not over. We must protect the gains we have made. We must educate our legislators in Harrisburg about how important our industry is to the Pennsylvania economy.

Appel, Steve

Dr. Steven Appel has been on the PTHA Board of Directors for eighteen years, and is serving his fourth term as First Vice President, after being appointed Treasurer for his first four terms. His direct participation has been important in shaping the future for horsemen in the state of Pennsylvania.

He has worked hard for the passage of the slot machine legislation, improvement of the racing facility, securing renovations for the backstretch, establishing Turning for Home as the first truly viable program for retraining retired horses, and planning the annual awards banquet, which recognizes the achievements of Parx Racing horsemen and its premier equine athletes. He was also a crucial leader of the team that brought the Claiming Crown to Bensalem in 2002. He was inducted into the Parx Racing Hall of Fame in 2014.

He has owned racehorses for over thirty years, and is a practicing orthodontist, with offices in Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County. His horses currently race under the Wire to Wire Stable name.

Philip Aristone, Second Vice President, Trainer/Director

The most important part of a successful horsemen’s group is the cohesiveness among its members, and that is exactly what the PTHA currently has. That’s why we have been able to accomplish all that has helped our horsemen in recent years.

Philip Aristone is currently serving his fourth term on the PTHA Board and his first as Second Vice President. With his leadership as Treasurer for his prior two terms, the Finance Committee established a first-of-its-kind pension plan for Parx Racing trainers, which was important in taking care of the horsemen who have supported racing at the Bensalem oval during difficult times.

Aristone feels that the state of racing at Parx has been successful due to the increased purse structure that has finally allowed many horsemen to make a good living in the industry. It has also allowed owners to invest their purse money into upgrading their racing stock, and even the Pennsylvania breeders have been able to do the same with their mares and stallions. In addition, it has allowed Aristone and the PTHA to work with Parx Racing management for a completely renovated backstretch.

As a horseman, Aristone’s involvement with horses comes naturally, as his family-owned Indian Mills Stock Farm in New Jersey was built by his father, the late Roland Aristone. Phil Aristone’s brother, Menotti, was a jockey. Phil Aristone initially worked as an assistant to Ben Perkins from 1974, until he took over family’s string of horses in 1980 when Perkins opened a public stable. He was inducted into the Parx Racing Hall of Fame in 2014. 

Jack Armstrong, Owner/Director

If you were to ask him twenty-five years ago, Jack Armstrong never would have thought he would be the all-time third-leading owner of wins, as well as the second leading owner of money earned at Parx Racing. His career in the horseracing industry was inspired by a day at the races, accompanied by a former co-worker who owned a racehorse. After experiencing the races first hand, Armstrong decided to give the horseracing business a try. This decision led him to a successful career as an owner at Parx, eventually making his way to the Parx Hall of Fame in 2014.

Jack Armstrong is a major contributor when it comes to looking out for the owners’ best interests at Parx. Familiar with the many challenges that owners face on a daily basis, Armstrong considers himself a model claiming owner, and takes pride in claiming a horse that is able to go on to win in allowance company. He has been an owner at Parx for over twenty years, and has run horses at numerous other tracks. He is a strong believer in looking out for all owners, as well as setting goals every year to foresee the success of his stable.  He currently lives near Parx Racing with his wife, Michele.

Carlos “Charles” Asensio, Owner/Director

I think the PTHA is at a point that the monetary numbers warrant close scrutiny and working closely with legislators. I believe that Parx has an enormous opportunity to become one of the leading – if not already – racetracks in the country.

Asencio, Charles

Charles Asensio completed his undergraduate studies at Temple University (BS) and his graduate work at Rowan University (MA). He and his family own and manage commercial and industrial real estate in Pennsylvania and Georgia.

He has been associated with the horse racing industry for over 20 years as a fan and is entering his sixth year as a stakes winning owner under the stable name Alexandria Stables, LLC. His trainer is John C. Servis. He retired his top horse, Big Louie D, through the Turning for Home program and followed his progress, even visiting Montclair Stables where he was adopted.

After graduate school, Mr. Asensio founded Human Resources, Inc. (HRI), a tax incentive service bureau helping employers capture federal & state tax credits. Several years later he merged HRI with SMS Management Services of South Carolina and became managing partner of the Atlanta office. SMS was purchased by ADP in 2003.

He is the former chairman of the Perdue Latino Commission for a New Georgia. Mr. Asensio also served as a director of the Federal Home Loan Bank in Atlanta, GA from 2002 through 2004. He has been a member of the board of directors with Georgia Primary Bank in Atlanta, GA since 2007. He is a registered Lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

John Nash, Owner/Director

As a long-time owner and breeder of Thoroughbred horses, John Nash has been added as the newest Owner/Director of the PTHA’s Board of Directors. He was the General Manager for four NBA teams, including the Philadelphia Sixers, the Washington Bullets, the New Jersey Nets, the Portland Trail Blazers, and a former Comcast broadcaster.

Nash has been a fan of horse racing since he was young and was also a former high school classmate of Executive Director Michael Ballezzi. He has horses with trainer Phil Aristone and has been an owner/breeder himself since 1973. He won his first race at Garden State Park on Kentucky Derby Day 1973, the same day that Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby. He is still looking for his “big” horse, and now that he is retired, Nash is looking forward to devoting more of his time working for the horsemen at Parx.

Nash now lives in Delaware County and enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren. As a new board member, his goals are to continue what the PTHA has started regarding caring for the horses of Parx Racing and the hardworking horsemen in terms of pension and health benefits, as he knows how vital they are to the horse racing industry. He is a huge supporter of Turning For Home and the continued effort that the PTHA has made to maintain the integrity of the sport.

Edward Coletti, Jr., Trainer/Director
 

As a third-generation horseman whose family has been at Parx since 1974, the longevity of our sport means everything to me. My goal is to serve my fellow horsemen and work to preserve horseracing in Pennsylvania. Working together, we can continue to enjoy the excitement and share the love we have for these horses.

Ed Coletti Jr. has made a point of transferring a familial atmosphere into his barn, a characteristic that was ingrained in him from the start. His grandfather was Julio Coletti, who gave up his business of building houses to become a trainer of racehorses on the New England circuit. His father, Ed Coletti, Sr. worked for Julio until he was able to move to New Jersey. Ed Jr. followed right in his father’s footsteps, now with over 25 years of experience as a trainer.

Over the years, Ed has trained the winners of over 500 races, including stakes winners Coco’s Sweetie, Dixie Serenade, Fitz, Midnightcharly, Midtowncharlybrown, Slewville, Smokinpaddylassie, Yo, and Zipper’s Hero. In 2018, he went on to win the first graded stakes of his career, with third-grade winner Dixie Serenade, at Belmont Park.

Barn employees are happy to stay for years, while EJC horses are pampered throughout their time in his care – even after retirement from racing. His very first horse, Crosby Moto, was in the barn for 23 years. He became the stable pony despite earning less than $20,000 as a racehorse. And now that Crosby Moto is gone, Ed has adopted another former trainee named Ready to Play for his stepdaughter, Amanda, as a stable pony, continuing that very family tradition.

In an age when many horse owners choose to hire the “bigger” trainers that are always in the news, Ed has collected a group of owners who appreciate his honesty and experience. When not at his Parx Racing barn, he can be found scouting out potential horses at the sales, or at the farm examining his clients’ foals.

 

Kathleen DeMasi, Trainer/Director

Our organization has worked hard to get necessary backstretch improvements that were so badly needed, as well as implement programs for benefits, health and pension. We have certainly made great strides, and I look forward to working towards continued positive changes.

Kathleen DeMasi is serving her fourth term on the PTHA Board of Directors, and has taken a special interest in many of the programs that have been created by the PTHA in recent years, especially Turning for Home and the Granny Youmans Scholarship Fund. She is always quick to offer suggestions in order to further the success of these programs. Over the past several years, DeMasi has led the annual Parx Racing Hall of Fame committee as Chairwoman. She was inducted into the Parx Racing Hall of Fame in 2016.

DeMasi and her husband, Greg, have been involved in the racing industry for over 25 years with their Pewter Stables, a racing partnership. As a trainer, DeMasi saddled her first starter, which was also her first winner, in 1985. She is perennially among the top ten conditioners at Parx Racing.

Scott Lake, Trainer/Director

When I’m the Talent came home a winner in the 5th race Monday afternoon at Parx Racing, the victory gave trainer Scott Lake the 6,000th win of what has become a historic career. In doing so, he became just the 6th trainer in thoroughbred racing history to reach that milestone.

“The wins have certainly come slower than they did 20 years ago,” said Lake. “The sport is very demanding and requires a lot of sacrifices. You miss so much stuff with your kids, with your family. But to realize this goal, to reach this milestone, when you consider that only five other people have done this, it truly means a lot.”

Lake, 54, a native of Harrisburg, PA, first went to the races with his father, a former Harrisburg police officer and immediately fell in love with the sport. His career started at Penn National, winning his first race there in June 1987 before coming to and settling at then Philadelphia Park in 1999. He immediately established himself as the track’s top trainer, winning seven straight training titles beginning in 1999 with an eighth title to come a few years later. He was a unanimous selection into the inaugural class of the Parx Racing Hall of Fame in 2011.

The five trainers above him on the list are Steve Asmussen (9,653), Baird (9,445),  Jerry Hollendorfer (7,596), Jack Van Berg (6,523), and King Leatherbury (6,507).  Lake- 6241 – Current 3/8/22

John C. Servis, Trainer/Director

With the rapid growth here, there are obviously many concerns. Being a resident of Bensalem, I feel an added interest in the success at Parx Racing.”

Servis, John

John Servis has been training horses since 1984, and was pulled into racing’s limelight in 2004 with the success of then-undefeated Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Smarty Jones. He was honored the same year by the Turf Publicists of America as the Big Sport of Turfdom for “enhancing the sport of Thoroughbred racing through cooperation with the media”.

A native of Charles Town, WV, Servis initially followed in his father’s footsteps as a jockey agent, then became an assistant trainer to Mark Reid. Winning his first race as a trainer in 1984, he scored career win 1,000 in 2007. He became the only trainer to saddle both a Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks winner when Cathryn Sophia captured the 2016 Kentucky Oaks. Servis also trained the Grade 1-winning mares Jostle and Round Pond, as well as popular juvenile colt Rockport Harbor. He was inducted into the Parx Racing Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2018, John added Breeders Cup Juvenile Filly G1 winner to his resume with Jaywalk who also captured the G3 Delaware Oaks, and he is going strong in 2020 with Mischevious Alex and two G3 victories: the Gotham and the Swale. Following the example John Servis has set for service to the Horsemen of Parx,  Mischevious Alex’s owners, Cash is King, LLC and LC Racing contributed $50,000 to set up the PTHA Backstretch Benevolence Fund to help those adversely affected by the COVID -19 pandemic.

Michael P. Ballezzi, Esq., Consultant

As a member of the PTHA Board of Directors, I have concentrated my efforts on those issues which are essential to the survival of all horsemen at Parx Racing.

During his tenure as Executive Director, a position he has held since 1996, Michael Ballezzi has been a crucial leader in propelling the PTHA toward its purpose of improving the lives of its members. He was inducted into the Parx Racing Hall of Fame in 2014.

A graduate of Widener Law School, Ballezzi is an attorney and previously served as a District Justice in Delaware County, PA from 1983-1998. He is a licensed Thoroughbred owner and a former trainer, and currently races under the name of Balmora Farm.

As a member of the PTHA Board of Directors, he has concentrated his efforts on many issues that are essential to the survival of all horsemen at Parx, starting with a strong voice in Harrisburg, which resulted in the passage of historical gaming legislation. This allocates the highest percentage to horsemen in the nation, assuring a significant improvement in purses, pension, and health care benefits to Parx horsemen and their families.

In addition, Ballezzi has implemented a fair plan of gaming revenue distribution and stall allocations, which will protect local horsemen who have in the past as well as who currently continue to support our racing program. He has also pushed a valid increasing pari-mutuel percentage purse structure consistent with the rising revenues earned by management.

Also imperative to Ballezzi is the maintenance of a clean and safe backside and racing surface, which is currently being done by utilizing the funding that was generated by the slot legislation to rebuild all existing barns, and renovate all existing dorm rooms with heat and A/C, new wiring, and secured windows and doors.

One of the most important solutions to Ballezzi was the implementation of a fair and compassionate program of benevolence, by offering health insurance policies to eligible horsemen. These health plans include emergency room visits, hospitalization, doctor’s visits, prescription plan, vision and dental care, and life insurance.

Because of the negative press about horse slaughter that the racing industry was experiencing in early 2008, Ballezzi founded a retirement program for the retiring Thoroughbreds of Parx Racing. Under his leadership, Parx Racing became the first year-round racetrack to open its own racehorse retirement program, Turning For Home, Inc., which has become a model plan for other tracks in the United States.

Ballezzi has made Parx horsemen a personal commitment that he will continue to be the strongest voice in the racing industry for the right of each and every horseman and horsewoman to conduct his or her business on a fair and level playing field, and ensure that all Parx horsemen will receive the maximum benefit and protection in purse distribution, live racing days, stall allocations, pension benefits, health care, backside improvements, and individual rights and privileges that the racing industry can offer.

PTHA Board

Salvatore M. DeBunda, Esq., President

Jeffrey Matty, Jr., Executive Director

Dr. Steven A. Appel, DDS, 1st Vice President

Philip Aristone, 2nd Vice President

Jack Armstrong, Owner/Director

Charles Asensio, Owner/Director

John Nash, Owner/Director

Edward Coletti, Jr., Trainer/Director

Kathleen DeMasi, Trainer/Director

Scott Lake, Trainer/Director

John Servis, Trainer/Director

 

 

PTHA Staff

Vicky Mangini, Office Manager

Danielle Montgomery, Program Administrator, Turning For Home

Danielle Gibson, Public Relations Director

Nicole Guzman, Accounting Manager

Amanda-Kate Lenzi, Benefits Coordinator

Diane Day, Manager, Horsemen’s Purchasing Association (HPA)

Leslie Saunders, HPA

Lauren Young, HPA

Jonas Williams, HPA Dock Supervisor

Edwin Tapia-LeBron, HPA

Emanuel Torres-Medina, HPA

Duane Yglesia, HPA