By Lynne Snierson
Suffolk Downs will open for its 2012 live racing season June 2 and the horsemen and track management are expressing a new sense of optimism since the legalization of expanded gambling in Massachusetts last fall.
Suffolk, the sole surviving Thoroughbred track in New England, is widely seen as the odds-on favorite to secure the only license for a destination resort casino that has been designated for the Greater Boston region.
Chip Tuttle, Suffolk’s chief operating officer, said, "As we continue to pursue the development of a world-class gaming and entertainment resort, we remain committed to offering a racing program that is attractive to fans and financially rewarding to our horsemen."
Track management and the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association earlier this month reached an agreement to maintain a minimum of $8.25 million in purses and pay an average daily distribution of $103,125, which is the same amount paid last year.
In 2011, the track reduced its minimum number of live racing days from 100 to 80, and Suffolk is currently awaiting approval of legislation to reduce again the number of racing days required to offer simulcasting from 100 to 80. This proposal was reported out of committee favorably May 3 and is expected to pass easily in the full legislature.
"Our negotiations with track management this off-season were very productive and we are very excited about the upcoming meet," said Anthony Spadea, president of the New England HBPA, in a statement. "We remain optimistic about the future of racing at Suffolk Downs and we look forward to continuing to work together toward our common goal of sustaining the racing industry and the positive impact it has on the agricultural community in this state."
On opening day NBC's voice of the Triple Crown Larry Collmus will make a guest appearance to call several races on the nine-race card and participate in a meet-and-greet with fans. Collmus served as Suffolk’s track announcer from 1992-2008.
“I can’t believe it’s been four years since I was last at Suffolk and called Commentator’s (win in the) Mass Cap (Massachusetts Handicap, gr. II),” said Collmus, currently the track announcer at Monmouth Park and Gulfstream Park. “Chip (Tuttle) thought having me come back might be a fun way to celebrate opening day and I agree. I have an off week before I’ll Have Another goes for the Triple Crown in the Belmont, and it will be fun to be back.”
Opening day will be followed by a pair of three-day race weeks (Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday). Tuesdays will then be added to create a four-day schedule through the end of September. As of Oct. 1, the schedule would return to a three-day week through the conclusion of the meet Oct. 29.
Also on June 2, there will be a silent auction of racing and Boston sports memorabilia on the first floor of the grandstand in the afternoon. All proceeds will benefit Suffolk’s Thoroughbred retirement programs.