An image of Carcava’s Hunt from my first visit to Suffolk Downs, a place of small-time local trainers.
The last time I felt this way was when it was announced that dear little Paynter had laminitis. But in a way, this feels worse— since it has to do more with money than with heart, it is that much more hopeless.
I’ve been following the fight for Massachusetts casino licenses since the push for it began several years ago. Mohegan Sun signs popped up around neighboring towns where I currently call home around the western part of the state. They said that at least one casino license would be granted for both the western and eastern part of the state should it be voted to allow casino gambling and if the proposed towns were okay with it. Local votes gave a nod to Springfield, not far from where I live now, and up until recently, a battle waged for a casino either in Everett or in Revere, which would share grounds with the struggling Suffolk Downs. A casino license to the Downs would buoy the historic establishment for at least 15 years, but would also grant Mohegan Sun controlling power of both the already-approved Springfield facility as well as the Revere one. The state gambling commission which approves proposals upon the local voters’ nod, announced it today— Everett wins, Suffolk loses. The track, which is one of the oldest in the country, is all but dead.
I have had a profound sense of pride about my home state for my whole life, even more so after I packed my bags to head to Florida for three years. We are a place of acceptance, of revolutionary idea, and of great respect for history. As I watched the teardown of the historic Orange Bowl in Dade County, Florida, I thought to myself that this was the sort of thing that wouldn’t happen in Massachusetts. They would never do that to one of Cigar's battlegrounds, where he won after shipping in from New York complete with a police escort. They wouldn't do that to the place where Skip Away skipped away, where Commentator romped, where War Relic, Whirlaway, Menow, and Stymie all flew home in front and where Tom Smith discovered Seabiscuit walking through the fog one morning.
This wasn’t the first track to die nor will it likely be the last, but it is the last of its kind in Massachusetts as well as New England, which has played host to so many great sporting events including those within Thoroughbred racing.
Suffolk standout sprinter Classic Speed, who quickly became my buddy when I met him. Such a sweet little gelding.
All in all, I have tremendous mixed feelings about the track’s closure. I’m sad to see it go in my home state. Angry about the decision, which could have benefited so many hard-working track employees who will now have to look elsewhere. Worried about the fate of New England racehorses who will likely be sold, and hopefully into caring, cautious hands. Annoyed, because I’m convinced more could have been done to make the Suffolk Downs proposal a lot better in the eyes of the state commission. In November, I get to vote as to whether or not I want casinos at all in Massachusetts courtesy of a referendum ballot. After months of flying the “Vote Suffolk Downs” sticker from my car, I’m not sure which box I’ll check.
Thank you to everyone who worked to make Suffolk Downs what it was as I knew it and what I’ll remember it for.