As racing winds down at Suffolk Downs, a new track is being planned

As racing winds down at Suffolk Downs, a new track is being planned

Chip Bott

Suffolk Operator, Horsemen Agree to Launch New Track

Deal aims to restore full-time racing in the state.

Suffolk Downs operator Suffolk Sterling Racecourse and the New England chapter of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association have entered into a partnership to develop and build a racetrack in Massachusetts and restore full-time racing in the region.

NEHBPA president Anthony Spadea Jr. confirmed that the deal is in place and it enjoys the full support of track ownership, the NEHBPA, the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Association, and other New England industry stakeholders. 

"As the president of the organization I have been working around the clock for the past three years to find anybody who would come forward and at least entertain the thought of helping the Massachusetts horsemen bring back live Thoroughbred racing with the added revenue from the state's Race Horse Development Fund," Spadea said. "We have talked, talked, and talked. Now this situation has come about with the owners of Suffolk Downs. We are 100% in favor of going forward with this."

Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of SSR, was in transit to the Breeders' Cup at Del Mar and was unavailable for comment.

Construction of a new racetrack is essential to keep live racing and breeding alive in the Massachusetts as the 161-acre Suffolk Downs site was sold to a real estate developer in May for $155 million and the new owners have stated they have no interest in racing or simulcasting.

SSR, which currently leases the racing and simulcasting business from HYM Development on a monthly basis, hosted the recently concluded eight-day live meet and has submitted a formal application to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for six live dates in 2018.

SSR stated that 2018 will be the final live meet at Suffolk Downs, which is the lone survivor of the 17 Thoroughbred racetracks that once dotted New England. 

The Stronach Group has maintained it's interested in expanding into the Boston market to run a meet of 30 days maximum, but attaining both the lucrative simulcast and advance deposit wagering (ADW) rights and effecting changes in the state statutes governing racing are all pre-requisites. SSR holds those rights and has no intention of relinquishing them.

Under current law, SSR may simulcast year-round and handle wagers bet through ADW sites as long as it conducts "from a minimum one to 50 days days of live racing". Spadea emphasized that although NEHBPA is moving ahead with SSR, the horsemen want to encourage other entities to step up if so desired.

"We want to put our horsemen back to work," he said. "We'll do anything we can to help them and help the breeders, the farmers, and everyone else in our industry who wants to go back to work."

Spadea said no site for the construction of a new racetrack, which would include a one-mile dirt track and a turf course, has been nailed down at this stage. The NEHBPA was working independently over the last three years to develop a non-profit equine center and racetrack and has been negotiating with officials of several localities in Massachusetts.