04/16/2015 11:58AM

Plan calls for three racing dates at Suffolk Downs this summer


Suffolk Downs in East Boston, Mass., will run three race dates this summer spread out over three months under a plan devised by the track and the state’s horsemen, according to Lou Raffetto, a consultant to the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

The plan entails offering $500,000 a day in purses for one racing day in June, July, and August, when the boutique summer meets in the Northeast are in full swing. Raffetto said the track will market the racing days as a “fun, festive atmosphere” akin to hunt meets, with tailgating and fair-type amenities.

The plan is designed to sustain live racing in Massachusetts until horsemen can develop a long-term proposal for restoring a longer Thoroughbred meet somewhere in the state. Suffolk Downs announced late last year that it would close and seek options for redeveloping the property after the track was passed over for the lone casino license available in the Boston area, but track officials told horsemen they would be open to leasing the track for live racing operations for the next two years.

Suffolk likely will ask for permission to run the three dates at a Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting scheduled for April 30, Raffetto said. The exact dates will be worked out within the next two weeks, according to Raffetto.

Raffetto said the track, horsemen, and breeders are all on board with the 2015 plan.

“We’re all on the same page,” Raffetto said. “It should be rather easy” to get approval.

On Thursday, Chip Tuttle, the chief operating officer of Suffolk, said the track supported the three-day meet, but he cautioned the plan still needs approval from the state gaming commission, including an OK to use racing subsidies from state casinos for purse funds. 

As for 2016, horsemen will gauge the results of the limited race schedule this year before deciding on what to do next year. Raffetto cautioned that horsemen need to closely manage the money built up from year-round simulcasting at Suffolk in order to secure a long-term future for racing in Massachusetts.

“We have to keep an eye on what we eventually want to do here,” Raffetto said.