GREAT BARRINGTON — Thoroughbred horse racing could return to the Great Barrington Fairgrounds as soon as next year.

The Berkshire Eagle reports, the company that operates thoroughbred racing, wagering and simulcasting at Suffolk Downs has reached an agreement on a long-term lease with the two entities that own the fairgrounds property to use its historic racetrack, the companies announced Wednesday. Thoroughbred racing at the race track could begin as early as 2019. The track last offered thoroughbred racing in 1998.

Under the agreement, Sterling Suffolk Downs would refurbish the fairgrounds property and operate a commercial race meet at Great Barrington while continuing to operate simulcast wagering at its current location in East Boston.

The New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders are seeking modifications in state racing and simulcast laws, which expire at the end of July, to accommodate the new arrangement. Both organizations support the project.

The Great Barrington Fairgrounds are owned jointly by Fairgrounds LLC Realty and Fair Grounds Community Redevelopment Projects Inc.

"We are excited to enter into this partnership which offers potential benefits to so many people and organizations in our community, Western Mass. and the surrounding area," said Bart Elsbach, chairman of the Fair Grounds Community Redevelopment Project.

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