By Bill Heller
Is it coincidence or destiny that Suffolk Downs’ chief operating officer Chip Tuttle became a marathon runner? Because he’s been in for the long haul, trying to keep Thoroughbred racing alive in his native state of Massachusetts for decades.
While nagging injuries have put his marathon running on hold, Tuttle has been moving full-throttle forward to on the horseracing end of things by reviving the Great Barrington Fair, which has been dormant for 20 years.
Live racing at Suffolk Downs, the last Thoroughbred track still operating in what was once a vibrant racing state, has been on life support since 2014 when it lost a bid as a casino site. Instead, a casino was granted to Wynn Resorts’ Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, 15 minutes from Suffolk Downs. It’s scheduled to open in 2019.
Full racing seasons at Suffolk have been pared to a handful of weekend festivals with food trucks, live music, family activities, a weekend jockey challenge, horsemen’s shipping charges covered, and exorbitant purses averaging more than $50,000 per race daily. This year, $10,000 claimers raced for a purse of $41,000 on June 9th and June 10th.
Two of this year’s three festivals remain, on July 7-8 and August 4-5, and another may be added in the fall. The weekends were spaced out so that owners with Massachusetts-breds could compete in three different stakes during the year.
But that’s it, especially if Amazon decides to locate its second headquarters at the 161-acre Suffolk Downs property which Boston-based HYM Investment Group purchased for $155 million in May, 2017. A decision is expected by Amazon, whose headquarters are in Seattle, Washington, by October. If Amazon chooses another site, Suffolk could squeeze in one more year of festivals.
How long can a patient last on life support? There are only two possible conclusions: the patient recovers or the patient dies.
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August - October 2018, issue 49 (PRINT)
August - October 2018, issue 49 (DOWNLOAD)