Suffolk Downs

Suffolk Downs

Chip Bott

Suffolk Downs Plans Later Opening June 2

Track is still waiting for a purse contract to be finalized by the New England HBPA.

By Lynne Snierson

Suffolk Downs, which in recent years has opened its live meet on Preakness Day in the middle of May, will instead begin the 2012 season June 2 even though a purse contract with the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has yet to be finalized.

Both track management and the horsemen expressed confidence that the minor details holding up the deal can be worked out in the coming days and the first condition book, which is now posted on Suffolk’s website, will be honored. The meet offers 80 days of live racing and runs through Breeders’ Cup weekend in early November.

The track had a difficult time filling cards in the early part of last year’s meet, the first of 80 days at Suffolk, and the first program had to be canceled once due to lack of sufficient entries. The later start will allow more of the trainers to return from winter racing in Florida and other tracks, and it is hoped that more horses arriving on the grounds will be ready to run.

The backside will open April 22 and the racing office is in the process of accepting stall applications. A racing official who did not wish to be quoted said applications are coming in at a brisk pace and there will be some new outfits in the mix this year. Trainer Dennis Ward, the father of trainer Wesley Ward, plans to send 25 horses and Mike Gorham, once a regular on the New England circuit, will return from the mid-Atlantic tracks with about 25 runners.

Suffolk will race three days per week in the early part of the season and then switch to the regular schedule of live racing on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

Meanwhile, there was action April 12 on Suffolk’s plan to win one of three licenses to develop a destination resort casino. Boston Mayor Tom Menino held a news conference at City Hall Plaza to announce the formation of a host community advisory committee to “ensure integrity, accountability, and transparency” in the event that the state’s newly appointed gaming commission approves a casino for the city.

The Boston committee is charged with negotiating with potential developers to secure a wide range of lucrative benefits to the city that will be generated by the expansion of gambling.

The mayor’s announcement came one day after the management of Suffolk Downs issued letters formally asking the cities of Boston and Revere to enter into negotiations over the resort casino it has proposed to develop on the property with Caesar’s Entertainment. This is the first step required of the track, which straddles both of those cities, in the application process.

Legislation passed in the fall of 2011 calls for as many as three destination resort casinos designated for three different regions of the state, and one stand alone slots parlor that can be built anywhere in Massachusetts. Suffolk is pursuing the casino designated for the Boston area.