Edited Suffolk Downs release
For the second year in a row, Suffolk Downs will not run the Massachusetts Handicap, which had been scheduled for Sept. 30, track management announced Wednesday. The MassCap, the Boston track's signature race, was to carry a purse of $300,000 and was scheduled to be part of ESPN's "Emirates Airline Countdown to the Breeders' Cup."
"We continue to be negatively impacted by the onslaught of gaming in Rhode Island and Connecticut, and the current impasse in the legislature has caused a troubling atmosphere of uncertainty," Suffolk Downs chief operating officer Bob O'Malley said. "We are concerned about finishing our fall meet and the possibility of a protracted shutdown in 2007 due to the impending expiration of enabling legislation.
"To date, we have been able to maintain adequate purse levels and our commitment to the local horsemen. This is a difficult decision because local racing fans look forward to the MassCap, but we cannot justify it based on our current business levels."
Suffolk Downs officials indicated they had postponed the decision to cancel the MassCap until now in the hope legislation could be passed in informal session that would give the track additional flexibility on its racing schedule for the year. However, after a recent meeting of the state's four pari-mutuel licensees at the request of leading state legislators, it was apparent no compromise would be reached.
"We consistently get agreement and a plan to work together among three of the four licensees -- and we do again currently --but the Raynham dog track prefers a scorched-earth policy to the detriment of our business, our horsemen, and our fans," O'Malley said. "Raynham's ownership made it clear that it would block any legislation proposed by the other licensees."
Legislation enabling the Massachusetts tracks to simulcast expired at the end of 2005. A bill passed in informal session in December allowed the tracks to continue to operate until April 1, 2006. After a six-day shutdown, new legislation in April extended simulcasting through the end of this year.
The MassCap was revived by Suffolk Downs ownership in 1995 after a five-year hiatus. The race has been won by Thoroughbred racing legends such as Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, and, more recently, Cigar and Skip Away
If it is not run this year, the MassCap will lose its grade II status. Under rules of the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, a race loses its graded status if it is not run two consecutive years.