Seventy Five years ago the nation was in the throws of the Great Depression, a gigantic dust bowl raged in America’s prairie lands and Franklin D. Roosevelt was pitching his New Deal to the country.
On the marshy border between East Boston and Revere, after pari-mutuel wagering was legalized in the state, Suffolk Downs was built in 62 days.
Today, the national is in the throws of another depression, a severe oil leak is threatening to change the Gulf Coast for decades and the state is considering a bill that would legalize expanded gaming in the state.
On Saturday, Suffolk Downs welcomed back an array of personalities from the track’s 75-year history, including Hall of Fame jockeys Chris McCarron and Jerry Bailey and local favorites Carl Gambardella and Abby Fuller. The honored guests were recognized in special winner’s circle presentations hosted by NBC Sports racing analyst and local sports personality Bob Neumeier.
City of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino was on hand to present a proclamation to the track in recognition of its milestone anniversary.
Richard and Tom Phelan, whose parents owned the horse who won the very first race at Suffolk Downs on July 10, 1935, presented the trophy for the winner of the first race of the day, named the “Eddie Wrack” in honor of their parents’ horse. The Phelans brought along with them the navy blue and gold silks worn by jockey Carl Hanford in the track’s inaugural race.
Also joining the presentation was Revere resident Buddy Marino, who was in attendance on Opening Day in 1935.
John Tomasello, whose family’s construction company built the track in, was also recognized in a winner’s circle ceremony.
“It was a great day and we were delighted to share it with such a great crowd,” said Chip Tuttle, Chief Operating Officer of Suffolk Downs. “It was nice to welcome back some old friends and salute the contributions they have made to Suffolk Downs. It was a fitting salute to our 75-year legacy.”
Built by 3,000 workers in just 62 days, the historic track has been a showcase for some of the most famous names in Thoroughbred racing history, including Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, John Henry, Cigar and Skip Away.
The track’s rich tradition extends beyond Thoroughbred racing. On August 18, 1966, the Beatles took the stage on the racetrack for an historic performance, one of their last official concerts as a group. Over 25,000 fans packed the house to witness what would prove to be the Beatles’ final Boston appearance.