132 Dickens SA

Marcus J. Vitali is proposing to establish a pot farm in this building at 132 Dickens St. in South Attleboro.

ATTLEBORO — A city-based thoroughbred horse trainer with a checkered professional record is hoping to open a marijuana growing business in Attleboro.

Marcus J. Vitali has raced horses from Massachusetts to Florida for more than 30 years, but in the last five years has been suspended from his profession twice, once for four months and the second time for a year.

All told, he started horses in 5,635 races and has had 888 first place finishes, garnering a total purse of $14.6 million over his career, according to equibase.com.

Vitali, 59, started his career in 1988, but didn’t gain a lot of success until 2008, which was the first year his horses took home more than $500,000 in prize money, according to the website.

And from 2013 through 2016, his horses won more than $1 million each year and more than $2.5 million in 2015.

But there’s been trouble.

Last summer Vitali was suspended for one year and fined $2,500 by the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission after the commission said he “interfered with and impeded” an investigation at Delaware Park in Wilmington, Del.

According to published reports and DTRC documents, investigators were searching the home of a Vitali employee when Vitali burst in and took an item wrapped in bubble wrap from a refrigerator and fled with it.

Vitali admitted he took something from the refrigerator and absconded.

According to a racing publication called paulickreport.com, he claimed “the item was a baggie of marijuana the employee was holding for someone else, and he didn’t want either party to lose their license. The employee and Delaware officials say it was a vial of clear liquid which Vitali allegedly had used to inject horses, possibly on race day.”

Neither claim was proved because by the time the investigators caught up to Vitali he had discarded the item and the investigators did not search for it.

Theracingbiz.com said a suspension while issued in one state is typically enforced in all states, which essentially put Vitali out of a job.

Meanwhile, in 2016, Vitali was suspended by Florida racing officials for four months for “multiple medication violations.”

Vitale shrugs off the violations, which he blames on a regulation-heavy industry, and contends they should not affect his applications to the city or state for a marijuana business.

A plethora of rules means violations are likely, he said.

“Every trainer has been suspended at one time or another,” he told The Sun Chronicle. “There are so many different rules. Each track has different rules.”

He said the latest infractions are not relevant to the business he hopes to start in a 2,000-square-foot former factory building at 132 Dickens St. in South Attleboro, which is just down the street from Greco’s Auto at 83 Dickens St., a used car business Vitali owns.

“They are not legal offenses,” he said, suggesting they only carry weight in the horseracing business.

Vitali also owns Delizioso’s Pizza at Park and Steere streets, where he holds a license to sell beer and wine.

He described the proposed marijuana growing business as a “mom and pop” operation.

“I’m getting ready to retire and need something to do to keep busy,” Vitali said.

He said he’s never had a problem with his businesses outside of horse racing.

“I’ve never had a citation and I don’t plan on getting any,” he said.

On his latest renewal application for Greco’s he listed his address as 43 Langdon Ave. in Pawtucket.

Assessor’s records show he’s also a part owner of 39 Oak Ave. in Attleboro, where Tamera Emmett runs a horse boarding facility.

A public hearing on Vitali’s application for a special permit to cultivate marijuana is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 20 before the zoning board of appeals in City Hall.

George W. Rhodes can be reached at 508-236-0432.

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