Letter to the Editor

My take on Suffolk Downs

Dear Editor:

As a trainer at Suffolk Downs for the past 35 years I would like to give you the real take on what’s going on in the thoroughbred industry in Massachusetts. As you’re aware the track closed for live racing in October and with the casino license awarded to Everett, left the future of racing in jeopardy. Suffolk’s contention is that their losses are making it impossible to continue. The problem with that in my opinion is that for the past five years Suffolk did very little to support racing. I believe that the idea was to show the Gaming Commission that we could not make it without the casino; it backfired when the license went to Everett.

As part of the gaming bill Chapter 23K a fund was established that would support our purses and our breeding industry statewide making our live product better than ever before. We would see purses on a par with New Jersey and our breeding program would thrive, thus preserving thousands of acres of open farmland in the Commonwealth dedicated to thoroughbred breeding and up to 2,500 jobs directly and indirectly related to racing. The industry also generates millions of dollars in state revenue via sales tax and as a portion of the everyday handle.

When the track closed its doors, saying it was for the final time, allegedly there were potential buyers who approached Suffolk looking to continue racing. One of those was Frank Stronarch (Magna Entertainment) who operates Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita, Laurel Park, and Pimlico. Allegedly, he was told it wasn’t for sale. We believe with the proper formula in place that Suffolk could operate a grade A racetrack and drop a profit to the bottom line and also begin development of some its surrounding acres. With that said, if they’re no longer interested in racing they have a golden opportunity to save the racing industry and its thousands of jobs by leasing the track to the horseman for two years. This would allow Suffolk to plan its future while the horseman explore a possible new location for racing in Massachusetts. Any interruption in racing would kill the breeding farms and put up to 2,500 people out of work. Sounds like a no brainer for both parties. Yet after numerous attempts to work out an agreement Suffolk remains difficult to negotiate with.

As far as simulcasting goes, so that the public understands the simulcast signal belongs to the thoroughbred industry not to any brick and mortar facility. The horseman split the simulcast revenue with the host racetrack as benefit for providing live racing. If in fact a new track operator were to arrive on the scene, the rights to that signal would make it very appealing to open a new Massachusetts racetrack. Currently The House on Beacon Hill approved a 90 day extension of Suffolk’s simulcasting privilege while they continue to negotiate with us a possible two year lease. If a lease agreement can’t be reached the simulcast signal remains with the horseman until a new facility is opened.

Bill Lagorio

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