Suffolk Downs will reinstitute the historic Massachusetts Handicap this fall as part of a continued effort to return the East Boston track to a secure financial position, track officials said.
The storied race, which has had champion winners such as Seabsicuit, Whirlaway, Skip Away, and Cigar, has been canceled three out of the past four years because of declining business and the track’s struggles with simulcast legislation. Earlier this year, it appeared the race wouldn't be run this year.
But according to new majority owner Richard Fields, who assumed controlling interest of the Suffolk board of directors in March, bringing the “MassCap” back to the track is another step toward providing fans with a world-class sports and entertainment experience.
“If you ask folks what they remember most about racing at Suffolk, they usually mention the MassCap, whether they saw Cigar for the first time or met Jerry Bailey after his fourth MassCap win,” Fields said. “Bringing back the MassCap is just one of the steps we are taking to rejuvenate racing in Boston.”
Formerly a grade II event, the MassCap lost that status in 2006 due to the rules of the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, which state that a race loses its graded status if it is not run two consecutive years.
Track officials are still working to determine an exact date and purse structure for the renewal of the race, but track spokesman Christian Teja said it would most likely be run in the fall. Such a plan would allow the MassCap to serve as one of the springboards to the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
The MassCap was last run in 2004, when Offlee Wild beat 2003 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Funny Cide by a head for a purse of $500,000.