Trainer Jay Bernardini got his 2014 season at Suffolk Downs off to a sharp start with three-wins on the nine race card before an enthusiastic crowd of 14,612 on hand to celebrate the Kentucky Derby, but it could be the last time such a crowd descends upon the historic oval for the Derby – officials said, alluding to the controversies surrounding Boston’s recent holdup of the casino licensing process.
The crowd was the largest in attendance since 2009. The total wagering on the Suffolk Downs live card was $441,507 and track officials estimated the total on-site handle would be in excess of $1.5 million.
“The combination of Opening Day, the Kentucky Derby and Wicked Strong with all of the local rooting interest really helped us create a spectacular day,” said Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle. “It was the biggest crowd we have had in five years.”
However, Tuttle tempered that with a serious reminder to the administration in the City of Boston that it could be the last Opening Day if
“As great as Saturday was, we’re hanging by a thread here,” said Tuttle. “Mohegan Sun and the City of Boston have had good discussions, but make no mistake, absent two agreements, a surrounding community agreement between Mohegan Sun and Boston, and one between Suffolk Downs and the city to master plan the Boston side of the property, I can’t see a way that we can continue to race here.”
It was a stark reality on what was a very happy day, especially for one local trainer.
Bernardini, a resident of Lynn, got his day started in the second race when Thisonesforruthie ($9.60) rolled to an 8 ½ front-running victory under jockey Erik Barbaran. In the sixth race, Bernardini teamed up with longtime Suffolk Downs rider David Amiss to win with Summer of Summers ($5.80) and the pair wheeled back in the seventh to score with Funky Country ($6.40).
Also on the card, Glowing Promise ($9.40) earned his seventeenth local victory for owner and trainer John Nassi. The eight-year-old son of Straight Man led every step of the way and held off a game charge from the favored Classic Speed. It was the second win of the day for veteran jockey Vernon Bush who also won the opener aboard Chasing Greg ($13.00).
After the seventh race, the Suffolk Downs jockeys and horsemen and women gathered in the winner’s circle for a presentation to the Revere Fire Department in a show of gratitude for their efforts to extinguish a fire in the track kitchen area on Tuesday.
Suffolk Downs continued to honor individuals and groups who have made a positive impact in the local community through their “Community Winner’s Circle” program.
Today, the track recognized the Beachmont Improvement Committee, the East Boston YMCA, CAPIC, Inc., Girls, Inc. and the Krystle Campbell Memorial Scholarship Fund for outstanding contributions to the local community.
After Opening Day, racing will be conducted on Wednesday and Saturday the first week, then Monday, Wednesday and Saturday (Preakness Stakes Day) the following week. Beginning Monday, May 19, four-day race weeks (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday) will be scheduled until the conclusion of the meet. Following Opening Day, regular first post time will be 12:45 p.m.