Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, the company that has operated racing and simulcasting at Suffolk Downs since 1992, the New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (NEHBPA) and the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (MTBA) are launching a collaborative effort to create the legislative, regulatory and business conditions that would allow for the construction of a new thoroughbred racing facility in Massachusetts as well as exploring options for the siting of the new track in the Commonwealth, the three organizations announced today.
The announcement was made prior to a hearing by the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies on Senate Bill 175, filed by Senator Joseph Boncore of Winthrop.
“The comprehensive Massachusetts gaming legislation created the Race Horse Development Fund as mitigation and protection for our industry, which is great for local horsemen, local breeders, family farms and the many small businesses associated with them, but does us no good if we don't have a race track to run at,” said Anthony Spadea, President of the NEHBPA. “Senator Boncore's bill, like the similar bill filed by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, allows up to half of the Race Horse Development Fund to be used for capital improvements and track operations. We've looked at several options and believe that this is the best path forward to preserve our jobs, our businesses and the thousands of acres of open working space associated with horse racing in the Commonwealth. We and the Mass Breeders are excited to offer our full support to and to work exclusively with Sterling Suffolk, our partner since 1992, on this initiative.”
“Since the Gaming Commission's decision to award the Boston area casino license to the Wynn Everett project, the ownership at Sterling Suffolk Racecourse has given local horsemen and the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders, in particular, the ability to keep going by racing a limited schedule from 2015-2018 when we had no place else to run,” said George Brown, Chairman of the MTBA and owner of Briar Hill Farm in Rehoboth. “We believe partnering with Sterling Suffolk and the NEHPBA on legislation that would allow a portion of the Race Horse Development Fund to be used for track operations is the only way to protect our farms and our way of life.”
“We have looked at various models and, as the Legislature contemplates the future of racing and simulcasting, our company believes that we can create a new thoroughbred racing facility in Massachusetts given the right economic conditions, including a longer-term extension of our racing and simulcast license, so that we have the certainty to invest in a new racing facility in partnership with the NEHBPA and the MTBA,” said Chip Tuttle, COO of Sterling Suffolk Racecourse. “We share the horsemen's vision for a year-round, multi-use facility and look forward to working with the Legislative leadership and other stakeholders to pass legislation that would allow thoroughbred racing to continue in Massachusetts.”
Over the last few years, the NEHBPA and the MTBA had sought legislation to create a horse park in Massachusetts. Sterling Suffolk Downs sold the Suffolk Downs race track property in East Boston and Revere in May of this year to HYM, a local developer. Sterling Suffolk has applied for racing dates in 2018 and officials have said next year will be the last year of racing at the facility, which opened in 1935. Sterling Suffolk ran eight days of racing in 2017, using nearly $3.4 million from the Race Horse Development Fund for purses, allowing local horsemen the opportunity to compete for the money which has been building since the opening of the Plainridge Park casino.
“We've already done a lot of work on identifying sites in Massachusetts that can accommodate a one-mile racing oval, stables, and extended training schedule and other amenities,” said Paul Umbrello, the Executive Director of the NEHBPA.
Tuttle indicated that Sterling Suffolk was reviewing the sites identified by the NEHBPA as well as other possible locations in the Commonwealth.
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