Updated on 04/01/2015 12:27PM

Horsemen, Suffolk Downs officials to develop plan for live racing


Representatives of Massachusetts horsemen plan to meet with officials from Suffolk Downs over the next several weeks to hammer out a plan for live racing this year after the state legislature passed a bill on Tuesday protecting the track’s racing license and simulcasting operations through 2016.

The legislature approved the protections as part of a supplemental budget bill, extending the track’s racing license through 2016 and giving the track the authority to offer simulcasts through the end of next year. The protections were considered critical to ensure that the state’s horsemen could reach an agreement with Suffolk on leasing the track for two abbreviated race meets this year and the next.

Lou Raffetto, a consultant to the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said that talks on the length of a race meet this year will take place with Suffolk officials immediately.

“Simply put, we need to sit down with Suffolk and work out a plan for the future,” Raffetto said. “We need to finally decide and let the public know what the final plan is for racing days.”

Chip Tuttle, the general manager of Suffolk, said the talks will be complicated by several issues surrounding which entity will apply for dates, but he also said the budget passed Tuesday creates a foundation for determining the future of racing in New England.

“It allows us to run that track at close to break-even and allows them to begin stockpiling some purse money,” Tuttle said.

Suffolk announced late last year that it intended to close the track after it was passed over for a casino license by Massachusetts regulators. The track and horsemen later reached an agreement allowing the horsemen to lease Suffolk through 2016 contingent on the legislation passed Tuesday.

Horsemen plan to run two short meets in 2015 and 2016 while pressing the legislature for a bill that would facilitate the construction of a small track and agricultural facility in the Boston area owned and operated by horsemen, Raffetto said.

“The hope for the future is to build a boutique-type facility that would hold 4,000 to 5,000 people,” Raffetto said.