06/12/2014 3:10PM

Suffolk, horsemen reach dates deal


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - The New England chapter of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the management of Suffolk Downs have agreed on a deal that would extend the current meet to Sept. 29 but reduce the total number of live racing days due to the ongoing shortage of horses on the grounds.

Nonetheless, legislative approval is still required. The current state statue mandates 100 minimum live racing days but that law expires in July. As part of the newly reached deal, the horsemen and track management will jointly support proposed legislation to extend racing and simulcasting laws with a minimum of 60 days of live racing required in 2014 and 2015.

Prior to the start of the meet, which opened on May 3 and was slated to run through Sept. 1, Suffolk Downs applied for and was granted 100 days of racing by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. But there have not been enough horses on the grounds to fill the cards.

In May, the track had to cancel two Tuesday cards. It then dropped all Tuesday racing in June because the horse population now numbers only 575.

“We are happy that we could work with the horsemen to extend the meet and look forward to working with the HBPA and the gaming commission on a schedule that complies with applicable statutes and recognizes the unique challenges,” said Chip Tuttle, the track’s chief operating officer.

Tuttle added that the track will make every attempt to race three days per week through Sept. 29 for a total of 65 days this year. A new schedule reflecting those changes will be submitted by Suffolk Downs to the commission.

** In other news, the New England Turf Writers Association announced the newly-elected Hall of Fame class for 2014.

It includes Tammi Piemarini, the third all-time winningest female rider; prominent owner and breeder Arthur Cort;  Bayard Tuckerman Jr., one of the founders of Suffolk Downs and the track’s first president; the multiple stakes winning Charlie Boy, who was beloved at the New England tracks in the 1960s; and publicist and historian Robert Temple.

None of the nominees in the trainer category received the required two-thirds majority of the votes.

The newest Hall of Fame members will be inducted at the NETWA’s annual awards dinner on July 17.