The 2014 live racing season at Suffolk Downs will begin on Saturday, May 3, the same day as the 140th Kentucky Derby, the track announced today.
In addition to live racing, the track will host its fifth annual “Boston’s Biggest and Best Kentucky Derby Party” with wagering on the Kentucky Derby simulcast and an outdoor party on the Grandstand apron featuring music, family fun activities and a variety of food and beverage options. Fans onsite will be able to enter to win a $1,000 wager on the Kentucky Derby.
While excited for the start of the new season, track officials expressed concern that this may be the last call for racing at the 79-year-old track pending the outcome of the award later this year of gaming licenses in Massachusetts.
“The start of the live race meet here always brings with it a sense of optimism and renewal, although this year that is tempered with concern for our workforce and the future here,” said Chip Tuttle, Suffolk Downs’ Chief Operating Officer. “Our plan is to invest in racing, create a better experience for customers and horsemen, bring back special events and return racing here to the major league stature this market deserves.
“We believe that Mohegan Sun has an approach for resort-style gaming here that is far better for the Commonwealth than its competitor’s and that Mohegan Sun’s success has the added advantage of preserving 800 jobs and a longstanding tradition here while enhancing the state’s agricultural resources and saving family farms and small businesses.”
The last remaining Thoroughbred racing venue in New England, Suffolk Downs has committed to continue racing for at least another 15 years if Mohegan Sun earns a license and develops a resort casino on a portion of the Suffolk Downs property in Revere. The track’s owners unveiled a $40 million racing improvement plan in the fall.
A study last year conducted by Christiansen Capital Advisors and Salem State University’s Center for Economic Development and Sustainability estimated that Thoroughbred racing in Massachusetts generates $116 million in economic activity and supports 1,486 jobs, many in the state’s struggling agricultural sector. The study projected both economic impact and jobs would grow significantly and that the amount of farmland in the state dedicated to breeding would more than double if the track were to realize benefits of expanded gaming similar to other racing states. While the Mohegan Sun operation in Revere would be a separate entity from Suffolk Downs, the track’s owners have committed to investing proceeds from Suffolk Downs ground lease into the racing operation.
Suffolk Downs has struggled to attract horses for the last several years as daily purse levels have remained stagnant compared to other racing jurisdictions on the east coast where purse growth has been fueled by revenue from expanded gaming. With just over 200 horses on the grounds today, track officials are working to attract another 400-500 in the coming weeks to be able to conduct racing throughout the summer.
Suffolk Downs is starting its racing season one month sooner than last year in an effort to accommodate as many racing days as possible.