After 79 years of operation, Suffolk Downs, the last thoroughbred racetrack in Massachusetts, will close. The track had tied its future to a successful bid by Mohegan Sun to bring gambling (and a resort) to the Revere property; that was derailed when the state gaming commission decided today to give the gaming license to Wynn Resorts.
Between 2007 and 2013 Suffolk Downs spent $3.275 million on lobbyists to support casino legislation — a bet that the track and its employees have now lost.
Suffolk Downs was built in just 62 days — transforming 200 acres of mud flats in East Boston and Revere into one of the finest race tracks in the country. When it opened, the grandstand seated 16,000 making it the largest in the country; the clubhouse accommodated 5,000 and was reported to be the largest in the world.
The biggest race at Suffolk Downs has always been the MassCap (Massachusetts Handicap) drawing big time race horses such as Seabiscuit, Whirlaway and Cigar, but the average race was for much lower stakes and the horses running had usually stepped down from the larger, more prestigious tracks. Of course my own horse, Freedom on the Wind, ended his career at Suffolk Downs, so there were still some good ones left!
The track was closed for racing after the 1989 season but reopened again in 1991. This time, it seems like there will be no reprieve. It is the end of an era. With Atlantic City in dire straights, do we really need another casino? Maybe Suffolk Downs was no longer in its prime, but to have it replaced by a building full of one-armed bandits adds insult to injury.