09/20/2014 9:28PM

Suffolk open to possibility of horsemen leasing track


Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle called a meeting with the horsemen on Saturday evening to assure them that even though the track's owners have no intention of racing next year, they will consider an alternative plan as long as it is economically feasible.

"We're willing to listen if they want to come up with a proposal. While we have no plans to race, if someone else does and it makes sense economically, we'll keep an open mind," Tuttle said.

New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association president Anthony Spadea informed the membership attending the meeting that the organization is trying to find a workable solution to the track's impending closure. Earlier in the week, the owners announced that this season would be the last for live racing at the 79-year-old track as a consequence of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission's decision to b pass the track's gaming partner, Mohegan Sun, when granting the sole Boston area casino license to Wynn Resorts.

Spadea issued a forceful call to his membership to remain united in this precarious time for New England racing. He added that monies that will soon flow into the state's Race Horse Development Fund, which was established as part of the 2011 expanded gaming legislation as protection for the industry when the single slots parlor and three casinos become operational.

It is estimated that the Thoroughbred horsemen's share could grow to about $130 million over time so the horsemen would like to devise a way to lease the track.

"You've got a lot of smart people who know what they are doing and are looking out for your interests 100 percent," Spadea said. "We are going to explore every avenue to find a way to race and find a suitable place to race. Let's stay strong so we can come up with the best solution."

The owners of the Brockton Fairgrounds stepped up to offer a home to the horsemen and said they intend to apply for a single date this year and a 2015 meet when applications are due Oct. 1. But there are only about 150 stalls there, a half-mile track, and no turf course.

"I certainly won't be racing my horses on an old fair track," said owner and trainer Matthew Clarke.  "I am a realist and I understand that the owners of Suffolk cannot continue to invest money in the track [without the casino license] and keep racing. I am very happy with what I heard in that meeting. They will listen to a plan that might restore the track to profitability. I pledge to work diligently with any horseman who is prepared to work toward that end.

"I am far from despondent. We are battered and bruised, and we feel betrayed by the commission's decision after we all supported the expanded gaming bill and fought for the protections in it. Now that we were poised to reap the benefits, we have no place to play."

The MGC, which has absorbed considerable heat from the racing industry and the public for its decision, scheduled a meeting for Sept. 26 when it will address the looming unemployment for several hundred racetrack employees and the loss of 1,500 direct and not direct racing and breeding jobs in the state.

"All the horsemen are trying to attend that meeting," said Alan Lockhart, a third generation Massachusetts horseman whose grandfather, Lloyd, is enshrined in the New England Turf Writers Hall of Fame. "None of this makes any sense; We're all still trying to understand it."

Meanwhile, Tuttle said that the current meet will likely be extended from Sept. 29 until Saturday, Oct. 4 in order to give Suffolk a proper send-off, and that the stable area will be kept open for a few weeks thereafter to help the horsemen find another place to go.








Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Let it go. Just let it go. If I'm a horseman in that area, I wouldn't want to run there anyway. No one in their right mind would put money into it. It's easy to wish for it to live, but, better to just move on. There are better places and brighter days if they just let it go.
delmar moebear More than 1 year ago
delmarmoe where was the hbpa in 1989 when the track was sold to buddy leroux and he closed the joint? anyone who had any talent fled boston never to return. anyone who put money into fresh stock every year fled as well. i am a proffessiol horse player that only plays the s. cal. circuit for the last 22 yrs and have even seen that circuit decline. 40% of the horses that compete there on a daily basis would not have been allowed on the grounds 20 yrs ago! racing is in trouble,yet owners in s.cal. put millions into yearlings year after year.suffolk owners breed 5000 claimers to each other.suffolk racing has been reduced to a level equal to the old n.e. fair circuit of the 1970-1980 era.i would give my left one to have suffolk return to the level of circa 1982 etc.,but its never gonna happen,casino or no casino. casino goers are not horseplayers.i know that cause im a horseplayer.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
What's being rumored through back channels at high levels here in Ny is that Wynn propased a plan to end racing in Mass with his bid. Greased some palms at high levels...governors campaign for one...and presto he gets the vote. INVESTIGATE Mr. SPADEA.. you sir have the authority and backing.
ken n More than 1 year ago
Look like bs qwners lose money and track makes money.Purses will be $1500o
Diana Levy More than 1 year ago
Call needs to go out to Frank Stronach. See if he wants to get a foothold in the northeast. He's literally the only one in the industry with the interest and money to do this without a casino license
1971 Whippet More than 1 year ago
Frank Stronach would never try to save horse racing in New England with his money. I wouldn't. You wouldn't, either.
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
IF the miracle happens and horsemen do lease the track, they have to get some money behind them to offer higher purses and bring in some stakes races. I hope they can do it. They need to find someone with really deep pockets to spot them some purse money action. Hey, Donald Trump you out there? Want to go into the horse business???
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Flagged again,@$$munch spammer.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
With all due respect to Matt Clarke's comment, "I won't be racing my horse on an old far track". Honestly, where do you think your (all Suffolk) horses belong. Sir, you have drank the cool-aid. Fact is the Suffolk horse population is the same level as most fairs where (before their demise) aka $2,500 claimers, just running for $5,000. Having gone to school in Boston and cut my teeth at Suffolk and Rock, I am sad as anyone to see this happen. But stupid comments like this, are not the answer. Mr. Clarke clearly has an inflated image of his stock and all Suffolk stock.
robert More than 1 year ago
No doubt Matt Clarke`s comment is stupid, however, your comment of the horse population at Suffolk is not accurate either. There are many horses that run there that are not bottom claimers and do compete rather well at other race tracks throughout the country. Sure 70 % of them do not but your comment is as stupid as his.
1971 Whippet More than 1 year ago
I don't know the value of the Suffolk property. I do know this: gamblers throughout the United States don't/won't risk enough money to justify running any type of meeting here.I don't blame anyone for clinging to any thread of hope that Suffolk could survive. It's time to face facts. This location and this entertainment product is a loser. It's not an indictment, an indication that any regime has failed. It's just a fact that should lead to change in some number of lives. Consider it a "reorganization" rather than a failure. Let's move on.
Big Rob stud More than 1 year ago
Location is a loser? Ridiculous statement, as far as the product goes if u give people a reason to come they will. Oh and for the record, how many people do you think are at Belmont on a Wednesday in October?? About 2k, so on track attendance/handle is far from a necessity. Improved product along with knocking down half the building and restore the other half would certainly be a start
william More than 1 year ago
without government subsides or slots, how many tracks would still be standing? Once this phony economy deflates, the government will be desperate for revenue. I know where they will find it. 15 years from now, we'll be able to count tracks open for business on two hands.