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Re: Monmouth Park Bans Shipping to Suffolk Downs

PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 7:10 am
by peeptoad

Re: Monmouth Park Bans Shipping to Suffolk Downs

PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 1:52 pm
by Tessablue
WaquoitNBroadBrush wrote:
BaroqueAgain1 wrote:Is the Suffolk Downs facility in decent shape? When it is in good shape, is it an attractive, nicely-laid out plant? If racing were to be revitalized in the Boston area, is Suffolk the most logical place? Or is the location not optimal? Has the property become SO valuable for commercial development that it doesn't make good business sense to try to use that land?
Sorry...I know, too many questions, but I'm not at all familiar with the Boston area. :oops:

My maternal grandparents lived less than a mile from the track, one subway stop away, so I know the area well. The logicality and optimality (if that's a word; spellcheck is red-lining it) are indisputable. The track sits right on the subway line and the tunnel from the major highways empties right onto Rt. 1A and a track entrance. The location could hardly be better, but that's why the property is so valuable. The layout of the plant was functional in 1935 but is not for 2017. The best thing to do would be total renovation, but that wasn't going to happen without slots, and now the property belongs to a developer that has gone on record as wanting nothing to do with operating a racetrack, so the location and condition of Suffolk Downs are moot points now. There are people in what is now the former ownership group who want to preserve a portion of the old plant or perhaps build a small new building for off-track betting once the new owners decide what they want to do with the land and have all the necessary permits and contracts in place.

It is difficult for outsiders to understand the attachment people have for Suffolk Downs. The racing product has never had the greatest reputation and the track's history is replete with scandal. It's neither scenic nor in a scenic location, despite its proximity to the coast. It has been run by owners and ownership groups that have either been wealthy but crass or well-meaning but cheap or underfinanced. Concessions are basic and the people who staff the food counters and betting windows are gruff to surly, although if you have gray hair, the ladies serving the hot dogs and the cold Bud will greet you with a smiling "Whad'll ya have, sweethaht?" There's never been a well-thought-out or well-laid-out location in the whole building to watch simulcasts. Yet there are people involved with its operation, and people who go there regularly even when there's little live racing scheduled, who want it to survive and still see a sleeping giant rather than a decrepit relic when they walk through its doors. Tim Ritvo ought to know -- he was a jockey there in the '70s, when yours truly, tagging along with my grandfather, made my first bet and saw my first race there.

This is why Suffolk Downs -- or at least the Suffolk Downs concept and spirit -- refuses to die. But I am realistic enough to know in my heart that if racing is to survive, it won't be at the current location and almost certainly won't be in Boston itself. Steve Wynn's impending full-service casino in nearby Everett assures that. And with two horsemen's groups with incompatible visions, not to mention Massachusetts' frustrating and often logic-defying politics, it's hard to see the Stronach Group's interest leading anywhere.

Here is reality: Massachusetts has twelve days of thoroughbred racing remaining, spread over the next two summers. A seamless transition to a new track in a new location is improbable given current conditions. Once Suffolk is physically gone and no racing is scheduled anywhere in or near the city, it will be all the more difficult to maintain interest in the sport and the dream will finally die.
Great post, and it really is hard to describe what makes the track so special to us. The floors are all uneven and the grandstand needs a major overhaul, but I just love how it's still imbued with that ghost of 30's grandeur... I can so easily imagine the old crowds (including my great-grandfather) cheering Whirlaway and Seabiscuit down the stretch. And it's still it's own weird slice of heaven for horse racing fans- all the old Mass Cap banners, the paddock right next to the track, listening to the jockeys and outriders shoot the shit during the post parade, watching the races while standing next to trainers and grooms...

I'm looking forward to this year's festivals and I hope against hope that racing sticks around in some way (Raynham is basically my back yard, so that would be nice), but it'll certainly never be the same. And I'd encourage any racing fan who finds themselves in the area to try and make a trip over there before it's too late, because I really do think it's a worthwhile experience.

(or in lieu of a visit, check out Not By a Long Shot by T.D. Thornton)

Re: Monmouth Park Bans Shipping to Suffolk Downs

PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 2:02 pm
by Somnambulist
I've never gotten comments like "it's hard to explain and no one gets it". Of course it's hard to explain. All feelings are impossible to describe. But I imagine 99% of humanity feels strongly about neighborhood places and things near where the grew up so it's hardly like Boston has some type of monopoly on it.

As for developing a market - is it really that strong? I wonder if any place in the US has a burgeoning racing market. :? Except for CO and the bush races they've been running.

Re: Monmouth Park Bans Shipping to Suffolk Downs

PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 2:25 pm
by Tessablue
Well, Suffolk is the source of a lot of derision and I've read a fair number of comments (mostly not here) about how it should just die and nobody would miss it, so I suppose it's more an exploration and rationalization of my own attachment to it. From any sort of distance I imagine it looks like little more than a dead track known best for its rampant corruption and slow horses.

And there's no market, that ship sailed long ago. I think there could have been one if Suffolk had tried to build up appeal with the college crowds, which the festivals have attracted in good numbers, but it's too late and they aren't going to drive forty minutes into the suburbs to watch horses. I suppose it could feed off of the nearby harness track, but it doesn't look like a very tenable plan at the moment.

Re: Monmouth Park Bans Shipping to Suffolk Downs

PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 3:23 pm
by Little Watermelon
We live close to Suffolk and for a number of years my wife and I went most Saturdays. I never watched the live racing; we would get a table in the terrace room, have lunch and play the simulcasts.

Probably about 10 years or so ago they had twilight racing two nights a week, and I would go over after work to play the late pick-three.

In the old days when Christian Teja, Larry Collmus, and Pat Lamberty worked there, they tried to do things to bring in people, handicapping contests, and seminars before big days, and about a third of the people you came across there you could hold conversations with. One of the great things Christian Teja did, which I would never forget, was when he stopped by our table to chat the Saturday before a Mass Cap, I told him I was a fan of Brass Hat, and he arranged for us to meet Buff Bradley and take pictures with Brass Hat. He did everything he could to promote the track, but he left to work for the Lottery.

Time marches on, though. Two of the live racing weekends go up against Saratoga. If you had a choice of either venue where would you go? The July 9 date we could go but don't have much enthusiasm for it, and it is easily accessible to us. We wanted live racing to survive; they didn't get slots. I have good memories of the place but like Generalissimo Franco, there is no future there. We did our mourning for the place after it was obvious racing could not survive there. I appreciate the feeling you and Waquoit have for the place and it will be sad when the sign is taken down some morning we are driving to Logan.

Re: Monmouth Park Bans Shipping to Suffolk Downs

PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2017 9:34 pm
by WaquoitNBroadBrush
Back from a profitable but somewhat disappointing day at Suffolk Downs.

Nice crowd, I would say in the 7,000-8,000 range, on a steamy day with a threatening forecast. The thunderstorms, though, managed to stay to the north and east of the track until very late in the program.

The Monmouth strong-arm move was mostly successful. Seven horses with last races at Monmouth were entered, four showed up and ran, but only one of those, Cali Thirty Seven from John Servis' barn, had Monmouth works showing. So does Monmouth boot Servis from its backstretch over this???

Fields were small for the two pointless Mass-bred stakes races, OK for most others, although a couple of the turf races suffered from multiple scratches, probably from outfits that stayed home rather than risk a futile trip only to be rained off. The majority of the entries on the card came from Finger Lakes, Mountaineer, Delaware, Penn National and Parx, with Scott Lake shipping a few from Maryland and Linda Rice and Christophe Clement bringing some New Yorkers. Definitely missed the NJ contingent.

Food trucks were down from a dozen to 6 or 7. Craft beers again failed to materialize in any significant numbers -- all that were available were bottles of a blueberry brew from Shipyard (Maine) and a decent, hoppy beer from Magic Hat (Vermont). Otherwise, Bud, Bud Light, Yuengling.

The crowd seemed to be enjoying the afternoon, and lots of younger folks and college types were checking out the place and trying to figure out this betting thing. I'll be up there again for one of the Labor Day weekend cards, but it's getting harder to forget even for five hours that there are only a dozen (now 11) days of live thoroughbred racing left in New England.

UPDATE: Suffolk announced the attendance as 10,219. Plausible given the parking situation I encountered, but it didn't seem all that crowded outside. Maybe the air conditioned parts of the plant, which I never got to today, were handling more than the usual number of customers.

Re: Monmouth Park Bans Shipping to Suffolk Downs

PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2017 7:38 am
by honneerider
I Dream of Lois won the 8th at Suffolk yesterday for local NJ trainer David Nunn. He stables some of his horses at Overbrook in Colts Neck to avoid the backstretch mayhem at Monmouth, thereby avoiding the ban.

Re: Monmouth Park Bans Shipping to Suffolk Downs

PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 11:22 am
by WaquoitNBroadBrush
The Boston Globe revealed today that the turnstiles at Suffolk don't work anymore and the 10,219 attendance figure was reached by "staffers counting cars in the parking lots." Wow! I'd love to know the formula employed there. Did they estimate 2 people per car (probably not, because that would never result in a figure ending in 9)? Did they allow for the people who got to the track via the MBTA Blue Line?

Also in the article, COO Chip Tuttle admits that "you never know" whether there'll be six more days next year. I guess that means the new owners/developers might want to break ground early. So those of you who have a soft spot for the old joint might want to plan a trip up there this Labor Day weekend. Yeah, I know. Saratoga. But I always find closing weekend at the Spa depressing, knowing what a letdown Belmont and Aqueduct will be after the show moves back downstate.

Re: Monmouth Park Bans Shipping to Suffolk Downs

PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:41 pm
by Tessablue
Well it looks like Monmouth didn't have much of an impact on this upcoming weekend... a whopping 30 races carded between Saturday and Sunday, and most of them ten or more horses! Going to be tough to choose between them, but I think I'll go Sunday to see my boy Chaotic Bull. Hoping for some good weather and a decent turnout.

Re: Monmouth Park Bans Shipping to Suffolk Downs

PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 7:48 pm
by Tessablue
Absolutely wonderful day of racing at Suffolk today! Whether was perfect, crowd was huge (first time I've seen cars in the overflow parking), fields were big and competitive- with some real value, not just a parade of 3/5 winners. Not even closing out the day by witnessing a crime (guy stole money from a teller and ran off...) could put a damper on it.

I was interested to see several Stronach horses (including one winner) and a flag displaying the Stronach silks waving prominently over the toteboard. Who knows how this crazy story will end, but at least the track is putting on a nice show with its remaining time.