Suffolk Downs Applies for Six 2017 Race Dates

Suffolk Downs Applies for Six 2017 Race Dates
Photo: Chip Bott
Suffolk Downs

While the ownership group of Suffolk Downs moves forward with plans to redevelop the property as real estate, it intends to again host an abbreviated Thoroughbred meet next summer.

Track management on Sept. 30 met the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Oct. 1 deadline for the submission of 2017 complete live racing license applications. The state statute requires Suffolk Downs to run from one to 50 days of live horse racing in order to retain simulcasting rights, and the track’s request was for six days.

The dates request mirrored the 2016 six-day meet, when Suffolk raced on Saturdays and Sundays on one weekend each in early July, August, and September. If approved by the MGC, which is  almost a certainty, the 2017 racing festival days will be held July 8-9, August 5-6, and Sept. 2-3.

Additional 2017 dates may be added to the schedule, sources close to the on-going negotiations on a purse contract between track management and the New England HBPA told BloodHorse. On Labor Day weekend Suffolk Downs chief operating officer Chip Tuttle addressed an open NEHBPA meeting at the track and said that a handshake agreement was in place with the group’s board of directors.

Once a purse agreement is signed, the NEHBPA might request as many as six additional days based upon funding from the state’s Race Horse Development Fund for purses and allowable expenses. It would be incumbent upon Suffolk Downs to file the request for funding once the  purse agreement is signed.

Another factor that figures broadly into a request for any additional dates is the potential availability of race-ready horses now that Suffolk operates as a ship-in facility. 

Meanwhile, there is no possibility live Thoroughbred racing will return to the Brockton Fairgrounds, which is owned by the Carney family, next year. Chris Carney told BloodHorse Sep. 30 that they did not submit a 2017 dates application by the deadline and will not request an extension.

The Carney family executed a 2016 purse agreement with the rival Massachusetts Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association for a 15-day live meet in 2016 at the five-furlong track which has been shuttered since 2001. But the MGC voted in August not to approve the license when concerns about funding mechanisms and safety issues could not be resolved to the commissioners’ satisfaction.

Nonetheless, Bill Lagorio, president of the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, remains optimistic for the future. He said that the Carneys purchased the entire length of the old safety rail once belonging to the now-closed Rockingham Park in the track’s dispersal auction and liquidation this past week.

“I was there myself with the Carneys’ crew dismantling it. We have the full mile-and-a-quarter of Rockingham’s Fontana rail,” he said.

In related news, Lagorio reported that the federal lawsuit filed by the NEHBPA against his group alleging violations of the Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1987 was dismissed Sep. 29, now allowing the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to be recognized as the representative of its members.

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