Suffolk Downs closing
BOSTON (AP) – Suffolk Downs, New England’s last thoroughbred racing track which once hosted Seabiscuit and other premier horses of the day, is closing this year, a victim of changes in a gaming industry that now revolves around lotteries and casinos.
The 160-acre track, located just outside downtown Boston, had hoped to revive its sagging fortunes with a $1.1 billion Mohegan Sun casino project. But after the proposal was rejected last week, operators said they had no choice but to close the nearly 80-year-old track.
The live racing season ends October 4. Betting on televised races – or simulcasts – will be offered until about December. It is a blow to the local racing industry and, to some, the end of an era for Boston.
“It was a great, great part of the sports tradition we had here,” says Anthony Spadea, who, as president of the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, remains optimistic that state leaders will find a way to preserve thoroughbred racing in the state, perhaps on a smaller scale.
“Now, there’s so much competition for the entertainment dollar.”
As word of the track’s likely closing spread in recent days, first-time visitors have been stopping by.
Late Monday afternoon, as the day’s races were winding down, a few dozen people milled around the property, snapping photos of the horses near the finish line and wandering through the track’s cavernous grandstand and concession area.
“It’s so strange walking through here,” said Paul Christie, a Somerville resident who was with his wife and two young boys. “It’s like one of those post-apocalyptic movies where you walk through the city and everything is as it was, but no one is there.”
Industry experts say the track’s closing will be felt across the country. One less track means fewer owners producing thoroughbreds, fewer jobs for lower-skilled horse workers and fewer bettors for simulcast races.