Monmouth Park Bans Shipping to Suffolk Downs

peeptoad
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Fri Jun 23, 2017 7:10 am

A new location is improbable, but maybe not impossible :
http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/ ... nd-venture
Tessablue
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Fri Jun 23, 2017 1:52 pm

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)
Somnambulist
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Fri Jun 23, 2017 2:02 pm

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.
"Life's no piece of cake, mind you, but the recipe's my own to fool with."
Tessablue
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Fri Jun 23, 2017 2:25 pm

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.
Little Watermelon
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Fri Jun 23, 2017 3:23 pm

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.
WaquoitNBroadBrush
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Sat Jul 08, 2017 9:34 pm

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.
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honneerider
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Sun Jul 09, 2017 7:38 am

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.
WaquoitNBroadBrush
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Mon Jul 10, 2017 11:22 am

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.
Tessablue
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Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:41 pm

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.
Tessablue
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Sun Aug 06, 2017 7:48 pm

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.
Little Watermelon
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Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:26 am

Glad you had a good day and there was a big crowd, and the weather cooperated.
WaquoitNBroadBrush
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Fri Aug 11, 2017 5:59 pm

https://www.paulickreport.com/news/the- ... -schedule/

Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 added, bringing total dates for 2017 to eight. Purse structure slightly lower.
Rick1323
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Fri Aug 11, 2017 8:01 pm

What was the motivation for the mini meets? Do they need to keep the plant open to keep the hope of slots alive? I don't understand running 2 weekends head to head with Saratoga either.
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Insane Crazy
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Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:00 pm

Rick1323 wrote:What was the motivation for the mini meets? Do they need to keep the plant open to keep the hope of slots alive? I don't understand running 2 weekends head to head with Saratoga either.
Are the horses running at Suffolk the same market share as those running at 'Toga?
Not a wholesome trottin' race, no, but a race where they sit down right on the horse!
Like to see some stuck-up jockey boy sittin' on Dan Patch? Make your blood boil? Well, I should say!
Tessablue
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Sat Aug 12, 2017 12:33 am

The slots dream is dead; ostensibly the purpose of the current setup is to bring people to the track and celebrate its history before it closes, although I think its primary purpose is to sustain what remains of the Massachusetts thoroughbred industry until (or if) an alternative eventually arises. While the goal isn't really to make money, it was a major success in terms of entries last weekend as it probably had close to 250 horses for the two days. While a few came from Saratoga (and it was a fairly lucrative betting angle), most of them, as best I remember, came from Mountaineer and Finger Lakes.

Is it unfair to other tracks? Probably. Will it do long-term damage to them? Probably not. Is it something I worry about while I'm there? For better or for worse, nope. Just trying to enjoy it while it lasts.
WaquoitNBroadBrush
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Sat Aug 12, 2017 12:50 am

Tessablue wrote:The slots dream is dead; ostensibly the purpose of the current setup is to bring people to the track and celebrate its history before it closes, although I think its primary purpose is to sustain what remains of the Massachusetts thoroughbred industry until (or if) an alternative eventually arises.
I think Suffolk still has to run some live races every year to keep its simulcast license.

As for the future, the big problem is, ironically, the Massachusetts thoroughbred owners themselves. There's one group (the HBPA) that is OK with outfits from classier circuits coming in to take most of the purse money at these mini-meets because the HBPA is backing an "equestrian center" plan out near Worcester that would run a "boutique" meet with classy racing; they want Mass. owners to start thinking big, too, and upgrading their stock. The other group (the MTHA) wants old-fashioned, cheap NE racing, which suits their existing stock, and is backing a plan to build a bullring at the former Raynham dog track, which has been simulcasting only since Mass. voters decided dog racing was too cruel and banned it. Supposedly, Stronach is interested in the latter plan. It would be nice if everyone could come together on a single strategy, but that would be very un-Massachusetts.

Of course, with the continuing bad breakdown news coming out of Saratoga, both plans could be moot. The anti-racing folks are probably thinking about a question on the ballot that would declare horse racing illegal in the state.
Tessablue
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Sat Aug 12, 2017 1:02 am

I didn't know about the simulcasting aspect, but that makes sense and you definitely know more than I do. Not even really sure where the funds are coming from but at least it seemed to work last weekend.

I'm pretty behind on the news but the split between factions is evident even on the surface, and it's pretty distressing (if, as you said, in-character for the state). There was a kid handing out "equestrian center" cards to people standing around the paddock so it seems like that's the side that is getting more traction with track-goers right now, but safety and public perception is certainly a concern (despite Suffolk's excellent record in that regard)- I saw protesters at Saratoga this year, which was the first time in my thirteen years of attendance. At least it takes years and years to get anything on the ballot in this state?
Rick1323
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Sat Aug 12, 2017 7:25 am

Insane Crazy wrote:
Rick1323 wrote:What was the motivation for the mini meets? Do they need to keep the plant open to keep the hope of slots alive? I don't understand running 2 weekends head to head with Saratoga either.
Are the horses running at Suffolk the same market share as those running at 'Toga?
Of course they are. I see tons of plates from all over New England. I see this market much the same way as I do my local track, Finger Lakes. Simulcasting the product is key to success. Which makes Tuesday the big day for the smaller tracks. Also when you go head to head with Saratoga, you have to face the fact that some of everyone's bankroll will be spent on simulcasting......
Everyone come home sound.....
Rick1323
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Sat Aug 12, 2017 7:27 am

WaquoitNBroadBrush wrote:[

I think Suffolk still has to run some live races every year to keep its simulcast license.

.
That makes perfect sense....thanks....
Everyone come home sound.....
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Miss Woodford
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Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:49 pm

Rick1323 wrote:
WaquoitNBroadBrush wrote:[

I think Suffolk still has to run some live races every year to keep its simulcast license.

.
That makes perfect sense....thanks....
They're going about it in a better way than Hialeah at least.
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