The storied Massachusetts Handicap, last run in 2004, will be renewed at Suffolk Downs Sept. 22, five weeks prior to the running of the Oct. 26-27 Breeders' Cup World Championships. In addition to the race’s potential as a prep for Breeders’ Cup Day, horsemen will be drawn by a base purse of $500,000 and a lucrative bonus program, Suffolk Downs announced June 13.
"Bringing back the MassCap is just one component of our ongoing commitment to reinvigorate thoroughbred racing in New England through our work at Suffolk Downs," said Richard Fields, the newest member of the track's ownership team. "The MassCap put horse racing at Suffolk Downs on the map, and provided the backdrop for legendary thoroughbreds like Seabiscuit and Cigar to make history. I believe that great riders and horses will once again make history at Suffolk Downs, and today I'm delighted to formally announce the return of the MassCap."
Fields, who headed the acquisition of a significant interest in the track earlier this year, has led a new commitment to the revitalization of racing at Suffolk Downs. Reflecting this commitment, the 65th running of the MassCap will carry a guaranteed total purse of $500,000, the same as when the race was last held in 2004. The guaranteed winner's share is $300,000, with a pair of bonus opportunities. An additional $200,000 will be awarded if the winner won multiple grade one or group one stakes races at a mile or longer in 2007. An additional $100,000 will be awarded if the winner won a single grade one or group one stakes race and at least one other graded stakes race at a mile or longer in 2007.
"The combination of a strong base purse, the substantial bonuses that we have in place, and the positioning of the race on the racing calendar will enable us to attract the strongest possible field," said Jim Pambianchi, Suffolk Downs' director of racing and racing secretary.
The MassCap offered bonus monies from 1995 to '98, but awarded a straight $500,000 purse in 2001, '02, and '04. The highest amount ever offered by the historic race was provided in '95, when a total of $720,000 in purse monies was awarded.
Offlee Wild won the most recent renewal of the MassCap in 2004, defeating Funny Cide and The Lady's Groom in a thrilling three-horse photo finish in the 1 1/8 mile classic, which carried a grade two status.
The MassCap was not held the past two years in an effort to maintain adequate purse levels for the local horsemen over the course of the entire meet.
In 1995, the MassCap produced three Eclipse Award-winning Horses of the Year in a four-year span: Cigar in 1995 and '96, and Skip Away in 1998. Skip Away also won the 1997 MassCap. Eclipse Award-winning juvenile Macho Uno won the 2002 MassCap in his four-year-old campaign. Overall, 13 of the last 14 MassCaps have been won by grade one winners.
Other noted MassCap champions include Hall of Famers Whirlaway (1942) and Riva Ridge (1973). The inaugural MassCap, won by Top Row, was held in 1935, the year Suffolk Downs opened.